Argosino becomes ‘main plunderer’ in amended charge
The Sandiganbayan has allowed Ombudsman prosecutors to amend their plunder case and identify former Immigration Deputy Commissioner Al Argosino as the “main plunderer” in the alleged scheme to extort P50 million from a Macau gaming tycoon in 2016.
The antigraft court’s decision allowed the prosecutors to comply with the additional requirement imposed by the Supreme Court following the controversial July 2016 ruling that acquitted former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, also of plunder.
The amendment was approved by the court’s Sixth Division, since Argosino and his two coaccused — former Deputy Commissioner Michael Robles and alleged middleman Wenceslao Sombero — did not pose any objection and have not been arraigned yet.
The new charge sheet accuses Argosino of amassing ill-gotten wealth “directly or indirectly” and “by himself and/or in conspiracy with his coaccused.”
It also alleges that Argosino received the P50 million in two installments on Nov. 27, 2016, “together with Robles.”
The phrases that imply Argosino’s role as the main plunderer were absent from the original charge sheet filed in the Sandiganbayan in March.
To meet the elements required by Republic Act No. 7080, or the plunder law, the phrase “both public officers committing the offense in relation to their office” was also added.
The complaint also now accuses Argosino and Robles of “taking undue advantage of his official position, authority and influence… in demanding and receiving money from a private person by reason of his office to unjustly enrich himself/themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines.”
The case will now be pursued by the Office of the Special Prosecutor, the office in charge of high-profile cases.
On behalf of tycoon
Argosino and Robles are accused of accepting the money, which Sombero supposedly delivered on behalf of tycoon Jack Lam, in exchange for the release of 1,316 Chinese nationals working for Lam who were detained for lacking the proper visas.
The Ombudsman’s order, which directed the filing of plunder, graft and direct bribery charges against the three, explained that Argosino was the one who allegedly demanded the payoff and “asked for Robles’ company and help.”
The three have been detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City since April.