No bail for ex-BI execs
The antigraft court Sandiganbayan on Thursday denied the petition for bail of two Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials and a coaccused former police officer who face a plunder case over a P50-million bribery scandal.
The court’s sixth division said ex-BI Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles, as well as retired police officer Wenceslao Sombero, were not entitled to bail, as evidence against them was “strong” and the amount involved reached the threshold for plunder.
“Using the standard of evident guilt or presumption of guilt this court finds that accused Argosino, Robles and Sombero are not entitled to bail,” the Sandiganbayan said in an Aug. 30 resolution.
Weight of evidence
In a 48-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez, the Sandiganbayan division, however, said the bail denial should not be taken as a prejudgment of the case against the three.
“The court merely determined the weight of evidence for the purposes of bail,” she said.
The case stemmed from a case of bribery filed against the two dismissed BI officials, who had been charged with taking P50 million in bribe from Sombero to release more than 1,300 Chinese casino workers in November 2016.
The Chinese were arrested by the BI in a raid at Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark Field in Pampanga while allegedly working for controversial gambling tycoon Jack Lam.
Lam allegedly used Sombero as a “go-between” to bribe BI officials for the release of the Chinese workers.
The National Bureau of Investigation had recommended only graft and direct bribery cases to be filed instead of plunder because the money recovered was P1,000 short of P50 million.
But then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales set aside the NBI findings and recommended the filing of a plunder complaint against the three on top of charges for graft and direct bribery.
In denying their petition, the Sandiganbayan dismissed the arguments of the three, which included the NBI report that the money recovered was P1,000 short of P50 million.
The court also noted that Argosino and Robles never disputed the allegation that they received the money from Sombero.
“The prosecution presented clear and convincing evidence that accused Argosino and Robles received money in two instances from accused Sombero,” Fernandez said in the decision.
Evidence also showed that the P50 million “appears to be ill-gotten,” the court said.
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