Sacked BI chief sues commissioners in extort try for plunder
Sacked Bureau of Immigration intelligence chief Charles Calima on Thursday filed a plunder complaint against Immigration Associate Commissioners Michael Robles and Al Argosino who both resigned at the height of extortion try on gambling tycoon Jack Lam.
Calima filed a 16-page plunder and graft complaint against the two for allegedly receiving P50 million from Lam for the release of overstaying Chinese nationals working for the gambling tycoon.
In his complaint, Calima said retired police senior superintendent Wally Sombero called on Nov. 25, a day after the overstaying Chinese nationals were arrested, to report that the immigration officials wanted a settlement (“humihingi ng areglo”).
Calima said he then coordinated with Sombero to set up an entrapment operation against Robles and Argosino.
Calima said Robles and Argosino received the first tranche of P50 million on Nov. 27, and demanded P50 million more.
“When we (Sombero) met again, he narrated to me everything what transpired in the meeting and he said that Argosino was very insistent on getting the additional P50 million, together with the around P35 million to pay for the bail of around 600 Chinese Nationals,” Calima said.
Calima said he learned from Argosino that the first P50 million was for “a new connection,” while the other P50 million was to be divided for everyone involved in the deal.
In his complaint, Calima said he used an intelligence tactic of “tradecraft” when he again met the two commissioners and informed them of the incriminating evidence against them.
Calima bluffed the two that Sombero and Inquirer columnist Mon Tulfo planned to expose the extort try on Lam.
This supposedly compelled Argosino to ask for Calima’s help to pay off Sombero and Tulfo to prevent them from exposing the extortion.
Calima said Argosino gave him P18 million from the latter’s share of P24 million, leaving Argosino with a share of P6 million.
Calima said the two commissioners left him with the P18 million and told him “Bahala ka na dito (You’re take care of this).”
“It was explained to me that the two paper bags contained only P18 million because he already got his share of P6 million while P24 million was with Mike Robles. Then they left, not actually turning over to me the money but just leaving the two paper bags on the floor. They said: “Bahala ka na dito,” Calima said.
Calima said he did not open the bag.
He later surmised that Robles and Argosino technically had an equal share of P24 million each, for a total of P48 million, on top of the P2 million cut for Sombero.
This division of spoils belied the two commissioners’ earlier allegation that they only received P30 million, while Calima received P18 million and Sombero got P2 million, Calima said.
“This only proves that the extortion incident was only for the benefit of the two and that the names of people that they have been namedropping to make it appear to the Chinese that they were just emissaries negotiating for the extortion demand was just the creation of their imagination. In truth and in fact, the extortion attempt was just for their own benefit, as shown by the equal sharing which they did to the money,” Calima said.
Plunder is a non-bailable offense of amassing ill-gotten wealth of at least P50 million.
Immigration commissioner Jaime Morente in a memorandum Thursday already informed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II that Calima had been terminated from the bureau and that Calima has turned over the P18 million to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group under the Philippine National Police.
After Calima filed the plunder complaint, Sombero surrendered to the Ombudsman his P2 million cut from the extorted money from Lam supposedly as hard evidence for a graft complaint he filed against Robles and Argosino.
But Sombero said the P2 million cut was not for him but for the organization of a legal team for the overstaying Chinese workers. He also said he kept the money to preserve the evidence in the extort try.
Sombero filed the graft complaint against Robles and Argosino for bad faith, manifest partiality and gross inexcusable negligence for causing undue injury to government, punishable under Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Robles and Argosino allegedly received bags of money from Sombero, who represented Lam, for the release of 600 of 1,316 overstaying Chinese nationals who were arrested for illegally working at Lam’s online casino at Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, Pampanga.
But the two reasoned that they collected the money as evidence of corruption. They had returned the bribe to Justice Secretary Aguirre.
Sombero filed the graft complaint after the Inquirer reported that Sombero handed to the two commissioners five paper bags containing P10 million each, caught on closed-circuit television at the City of Dreams in Parañaque City last Nov. 27.
The immigration officials accused Sombero of colluding with Calima to set them up, while Sombero claimed the immigration officials extorted money from Lam.
The immigration officials also accused Calima of receiving P18 million while Sombero allegedly received P2 million.
Aguirre has recommended the termination of the services of the two immigration officials, who are fraternity brothers of President Rodrigo Duterte as well as Calima. Argosino and Robles have since resigned from their posts.
Aguirre earlier alleged that Sombero tried to bribe him in a Nov. 26 meeting when Sombero allegedly asked Aguirre to be the “ninong (or protector)” of Lam in government.
In an interview after he filed the graft complaint, Sombero admitted that he handed over P50 million to Argosino and Robles as “goodwill money” in a meeting at the City of Dreams on Nov. 27.
Sombero said he was “shocked” at the gall of the commissioners to ask for P100 million more.
“I was shocked. Hindi ko naintindihan. ‘Paano ba tayo diyan, paano kikita diyan,’ (I was shocked. ‘How do we gain from this one?’) something like that,” Sombero quoted the commissioners as saying.
“I did not expect that. The reason why Jack Lam and Aguirre agreed on that meeting because it’s very clear, no financial consideration,” he added.
Sombero said he and Calima set up a separate entrapment operation against the two immigration commissioners on Nov. 30, but the two did not show up to pick up the remaining P100 million.
Asked about the P2 million he allegedly received as a cut or “balato,” Sombero said the money was for the organization of a legal team to assist the overstaying Chinese nationals.
He denied getting kickbacks from the extortion try.
“If I really wanted to make money, what I should do is get the money in Fontana and go to a dark place. Pero hindi ko ginawa yun (But I didn’t do that),” Sombero said.
After they were accused of extorting from Lam, Argosino and Robles also filed corruption of public officials and violation of the Anti-Wiretapping Law before the Parañaque Prosecutors Office against Sombero, Lam, Calima and two Chinese interpreters who were present during the meeting with Aguirre. IDL/RAM/rga/ac
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.