Trillanes sees Aguirre involvement in bribery scandal
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV raised on Monday the alleged possible involvement of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on the reported P50 million bribery scandal at the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
During the hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee, Trillanes questioned how Aguirre knew about the alleged P50 million to P100 million bribe offer by gambling tycoon Jack Lam through his representative, Wally Sombero, when no one had told him about it.
The senator noted that in an interview last December 1, Aguirre supposedly claimed that he would have received some P50 million to P100 million from Lam had he accepted an offer from Lam’s camp.
But when he faced the committee, the Justice Secretary made no mention about the offer, except saying that Sombero sought a meeting with him at the Shangri-La hotel at the Fort last November 26, pleading to help the businessman.
Aguirre said also present in the meeting, aside from him and Sombero, were Lam, his two interpreters, and former BI Associate Commissioner Al Argosino.
“Mr. Secretary, matagal na pong walang nag-aalaga kay Jack Lam, pwede po bang ang Secretary of Justice ang mag-ninong sa kanya? That’s the proposal that I rejected,” Aguirre told the committee, quoting Sombero.
After the meeting, Argosino said, Sombero approached him and repeatedly told him that Lam needed a “sponsor.”
“Hindi po ako nag salita. Ang sabi nya (Sombero) po sa akin, Sir, magkano ba ang kailangan P50 million, P100 million?. Hindi po ako nagsasalita…” the former BI official told the committee.
Asked later by Trillanes if he mentioned to Aguirre about the figures, Argosino answered in the negative.
“Si Sombero po ang nagsabi sa akin. Wala po akong sinabi kay Secretary Aguirre,” Argosino said.
“Yun yung malaking milagro dito. Sabi ni General Calima nalaman nila yan through Wally Sombero. Sabi nyo hindi nyo sinabi. Saan nalaman ni Secretary Aguirre yung figure na yun noong December 1?” Trillanes asked again.
Calima was former BI intelligence chief, who was terminated by Aguirre for alleged involvement in the bribery scandal.
Responding to Trillanes, Argosino said: “Wala pong kinalaman si Secretary Aguirre dito…”
But Trillanes asked why Aguirre would allow Argosino to join the meeting with Lam and why would the businessman would offer bribe to Argosino, and another former BI Associate Commissioner Michael Robles, instead of the Justice Secretary himself or the BI Commissioner Jaime Morente.
Argosino and Robles earlier admitted receiving P50 million from Sombero supposedly for “future evidence” but said P2 million went to the latter while P18 million went to Calima. Argosino and Robles turned over the remaining P30 million to Aguirre.
Trillanes suspected that all this time, Aguirre knew about the transactions.
“At baka kaya sya (Aguirre) naglabas sa media ay dahil nagka-bukohan na,” he said.
Interviewed after the hearing, Trillanes said Aguirre has a lot of explaining to do, starting with his meeting with Lam.
Asked if he suspects a conspiracy among Aguirre, Argosino and Robles, the senator answered yes.
“Remember isang grupo sila. San Beda group, fraternity brothers. Nakita mo ang tiwala ni Secretary kay Argosino, isinama sa meeting…” Trillanes said./ac
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