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2 BI execs face dismissal over P30-M extortion

Feeling betrayed by his close friends, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II recommended yesterday to President Duterte the dismissal of two of their fraternity brothers in the Bureau of Immigration (BI) who received P30 million from Macau-based casino tycoon Jack Lam.

“Syempre you felt betrayed,” Aguirre said when he was asked by reporters about the alleged involvement in the pay-offs of BI Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles.

The two BI officials are fellow brothers of Aguirre and Duterte in Lex Talionis Fraternitas.

“You felt they were not following the order of the President to go after corruption,” he said during the press briefing at the Department of Justice (DoJ) yesterday afternoon.

Aguirre noted that he himself recommended the appointment of Argosino to the BI, while Robles was recommended by someone else to Duterte.

Aside from the two, the secretary also expressed disappointment with BI intelligence chief, retired Police Director Charles Calima, whom he also appointed, over reports that the latter also received P18 million.

Because of this, Aquirre sent a letter to Duterte recommending the dismissal of Argosino and Robles.

“As matter of fact, it is not only them I am recommending. I am recommending everyone that is in the government service to be relieved of their position from the government service if it shows in the investigation,” he said.

“It is ultimately with the President. Nasa kanya iyon. Ang sa akin lang recommendation, wala naman akong power to dismiss them because I am not the appointing power,” Aguirre pointed out.

The DoJ secretary has already ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct an investigation on the bribery scandal.

Aguirre said that retired Police Chief Superintendent Wally Sombero, who is already in the custody of the BI, admitted handing to the two BI officials P50 million for the release of 600 of the 1,316 Chinese arrested last November 24 in illegal online casino operations at Lam’s Fontana Leisure Park and Casino Resort in Clark, Pampanga.

Aguirre said that Argosino and Robles claimed that they only received P30 million in “frame up, set-up money” for the help they were going to give Lam to secure the licenses.

The two BI officials also turned over the P30 million to Aguirre yesterday afternoon at the DoJ for “safe keeping.”
Argosino and Robles also insisted that P18 million was given to Calima, while Sombero asked for P2 million.
On the other hand, Aguirre would not want to judge them yet. (JEFFREY G. DAMICOG)