Sandigan denies Argosino, Robles appeal
The Sandiganbayan has denied the appeal of former Deputy Immigration Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles for the dismissal of their graft and extortion cases in connection with the P50-million bribe attempt by a Macau gaming tycoon in 2016.
In an 11-page resolution dated Jan. 7, the court’s Sixth Division sustained its Nov. 12 resolution, which denied the former officials’ motion to quash on the grounds of double jeopardy.
Argosino and Robles argued that since they were already charged with plunder, they should not have been separately charged with graft, direct bribery and violation of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 46, which punishes public officials for accepting gifts.
But the court said double jeopardy—or the repeated trial of a person for the same offense—did not apply in the case of Argosino and Robles because the four criminal charges against them would be tackled together in one trial.
The court said it must “consolidate the cases, hold a joint trial and render a joint decision” to deal with the “alleged error of filing multiple information” for the same set of actions.
“The accused may not be punished separately for each of the crimes charged. However, there is no need to dismiss the other cases,” read the resolution penned by Associate Justice Sarah Jane T. Fernandez.
The court said it would not resolve—for now—the question of whether the crimes of graft, direct bribery and violation of PD 46 should be deemed “absorbed” by the more serious crime of plunder.
Under Rule 117, Section 7 of the Rules of Court, only a conviction, acquittal, or dismissal of the case can bar the prosecution of the accused for the same offense.
None of the four cases have been resolved, as they were filed only in March last year.
On Nov. 27, 2016, Argosino and Robles were caught on camera receiving P50 million from former police official Wenceslao Sombero, president of Asian Gaming Service Provider Association Inc., at the City of Dreams Manila hotel-casino in Parañaque City.
Detained Chinese workers
The alleged payoff from gambling tycoon Jack Lam was supposedly in exchange for the release of 1,316 Chinese workers who were in detention for lacking the proper visas.
Lam was indicted as a coaccused in the case for violating PD 46, a relatively light offense.
Robles on Thursday sought Fernandez’s inhibition from the case, saying that the judge was a law school classmate of Laurence Arroyo, the counsel of his coaccused and alleged middleman Sombero.
Whether the court acquits or convicts Sombero, Robles said, [the ruling] would be “subject to suspicion of bias or partiality.”
He said that he was thus “constrained to seek [Fernandez’s] voluntary disqualification in the case … if only to ensure that the parties’ faith in the courts of justice [was] not impaired.”
Seeking the recusal of the division chair is a common legal tactic to get a different set of eyes to look at a case.
Under Section 6, Rule XII of the Revised Internal Rules of the Sandiganbayan, the case will have to be the raffled off to a different division if the chair of the previous division inhibits.