P1,000 allows ex-BI execs Argosino and Robles, Duterte brods, to dodge plunder raps

October 11, 2017 - 1:55 PM
Sen. Franklin Drilon (Phil. Star file photo)

MANILA, Philippines — Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon wants an investigation into the P1,000 shortfall that the Justice department admitted prevents the filing of plunder charges against two former Immigration officials accused of receiving a P50-million bribe from gambling tycoon Jack Lam.

The admission, made during the deliberations on the DOJ’s proposed 2018 budget on Tuesday, October 11, roused the suspicions of Drilon and other senators that the P1,000 may have been deliberately taken to ensure that the alleged payoff to former BI assistant commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles would fall just short of the P50-million threshold for plunder, which is a capital, therefore non-bailable, offense.

The bribe was supposedly to secure the release of more than 1,000 Chinese employees of Lam rounded up by the BI in Clark late last year for illegally working in the country.

Argosino and Robles, who are fraternity brothers of President Duterte in San Beda College of Law’s Lex Talionis, admitted receiving the money but claimed they were undertaking a covert investigation of Lam. They turned over P30 million of the money to the DOJ and said P2 million was given to former policeman Wally Sombero, who served as a bridge to Lam, and P18 million was allegedly pocketed by former BI intelligence chief Charles Calima.

When asked about the money, the DOJ said they had counted it and they only had P29,999,000.

“I call for an investigation because this is obstruction of justice, (so that) whoever is responsible should be punished,” Drilon said Wednesday, October 11.

“I condemn in the strongest possible term this mockery of justice that we are seeing. Puwede ba ‘yun na kunwari ay kinuhanan pa ng video ‘yung pagbibilang ng pera para ma-prove na kulang ng P1,000 bago pumasok sa kasong plunder (Is it probable that they even took video of the money being counted to prove that it was short by P1,000 to constitute plunder)?” he added.

Drilon said the investigation should be conducted either by an independent body or by the Office of the Ombudsman, although he added that the decision is up to President Rodrigo Duterte.

But he was adamant that the DOJ cannot handle the probe.