Immigration execs clearly lied – Escudero
Two former immigration officials who received millions in cash from an emissary of Chinese gambling tycoon Jack Lam knew that they committed a corrupt act, but chose to lie about it to salvage their reputations, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said on Thursday.
At a media forum on Thursday, Escudero said former Deputy Immigration Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles, both fraternity brothers of President Duterte and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, had acted illegally when they accepted P50 million from Lam’s known emissary Wally Sombero in the wee hours of Nov. 27.
Sombero said the cash was purportedly in exchange for the release of 1,300 illegal Chinese workers arrested at Lam’s online gaming firm at Clark Freeport Zone. But at a Senate hearing earlier this week, the two insisted that they took the cash as evidence for an investigation they were pursuing.
“Definitely, based on what I saw and heard about the demeanor of the witnesses, they definitely asked, they were definitely given, and they definitely accepted,” said Escudero, among lawmakers who grilled Argosino and Robles at Tuesday’s Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on the bribery scandal.
“It is clear that the reason they gave, however impossible it may sound, however weird it may be, however unacceptable it may be, I think they are just obligated to invent that story so that they could give an explanation to their children, their wives, their parents, their relatives or friends,” he added.
He noted how Robles claimed he spent long hours and battled exhaustion just to keep Argosino company while waiting for Sombero, a man he claimed he did not know.
“Perhaps it’s a huge incentive for a person to stay awake for a whole day when his only concern allegedly was that the Chinese (the arrested illegal workers) do not have enough toilets?,” Escudero said.
“It’s really unbelievable. And it wasn’t just mere poor judgment, not just a mere indiscretion. This is a clear case of corruption,” he said.
Escudero said Robles should disclose everything he knows before he can be a state witness.
Escudero, meanwhile, also raised doubts on Aguirre’s statement that Sombero and Lam allegedly tried to bribe him.
“Why would you meet Sombero and Jack Lam at a hotel when you would talk about work? Why not just delegate that to [Immigration Commissioner Jaime] Morente?,” Escudero said.
The lawmaker also wondered where Aguirre got his claim that the bribe offer was worth P100 million a month.
“His answer when he was asked where he got the figure P100 million was that he thinks that’s his worth. He thinks about that? That that’s his value as a Justice Secretary? That P50 million is cheap, but P100 million is ok? Is that how it is?,” he said.
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