MANILA — Instead of making claims, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II asked Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon to show proof and conduct another probe in connection with the bribe money recovered from former Immigration commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles.
Aguirre said it would be better if the lawmaker would present evidence to support his claim that the bribe money recovered from Robles and Argosino, which allegedly came from Chinese gambling tycoon Jack Lam, was short of PHP1,000 to constitute a plunder case.
Plunder is a non-bailable offense which requires at least P50 million as its threshold amount.
“Magpresenta sya ng evidence, hindi puro espekulasyon. Kaya hinahamon ko ang senador na yan na magsagawa ulit ng imbestigasyon at yan ay haharapin ko (He should present evidence instead of pure speculations. He should conduct another investigation and I would face it squarely),” Aguirre said in an radio interview.
Aguirre said what happened might had been a mistake on the part of the bank or other factors that resulted in the bribe money being short of PHP1,000.
At the same time, the DOJ Secretary said he could not have reduced the amount by PHP1,000 himself.
Drilon questioned why the two sacked BI officials were not charged with plunder over the bribe money they allegedly received from Lam.
During the deliberation on the DOJ budget for 2018, it was found out that the money recovered amounted only to PHP49,999,000.
Robles and Argosino admitted receiving the amount but insisted it was not bribe money but was part of their covert investigation on the alleged illegal activities of Lam.
They turned over PHP30 million of the amount to the DOJ and said P2 million was given to former police officer Wally Sombero and another PHP18 million was allegedly pocketed by former BI intelligence chief Charles Calima.
When the money turnover was counted at the DOJ, it only amounted to PHP29,999,000.
Instead of plunder, the NBI has recommended the filing of graft and direct bribery complaints against Robles and Argosino before the Office of the Ombudsman.
The BI controversy was a subject of a Senate investigation early this year. Both Argosino and Robles were accused of receiving a PHP50-million bribe money from retired police officer Wally Sombero, the supposed middleman of gambling tycoon Jack Lam.
The PHP50 million was supposedly intended in exchange for the release of the 1,316 illegal Chinese workers who were arrested during a raid at Lam’s casino in Pampanga. (PNA)