Sandigan justice inhibits self from Duterte frat brods’ plunder, extortion cases
Associate Justice Alex L. Quiroz, chair of the Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division, has inhibited himself from the plunder and extortion cases against resigned Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles.
Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tan approved on Thursday the request of Quiroz to recuse himself from the case, citing the fact that he “is an acquaintance of one of the accused.”
‘Suspicions of partiality’
Quiroz’s request did not specify who among the four accused was his acquaintance.
But, he said, his inhibition was meant to “deter suspicions of impropriety or partiality.”
Apart from Argosino and Robles, Wenceslao Sombero Jr., the president of Asian Gaming Service Provider Association Inc., is also a defendant for one count each of plunder, bribery and graft.
Macau-based tycoon Jack Lam, executive director of Jimei International Entertainment Group Ltd., Argosino, Robles and Sombero are accused of violating Presidential Decree No. 46, which prohibits giving gifts to public officials.
The case will be reraffled off to another division.
The BI commissioners’ case is the first anomaly under the Duterte administration to have reached the Sandiganbayan.
It was filed by Ombudsman prosecutors on March 23.
Argosino and Robles, who were fraternity brothers of President Duterte, were accused of demanding a P50-million payoff from Lam on Nov. 27, 2016, in exchange for the release of 1,316 Chinese nationals who were caught working for him without the proper visas.
Loss of P1,000
The two officials, as well as Sombero, were charged with the nonbailable offense of plunder, appeasing senators who had worried that the loss of a measly P1,000 from the recovered money would prevent the case from reaching the P50-million threshold required for their conviction.
Prosecutors would rely on the testimonies of Lam’s business associates, Norman Ng and Alex Yu, who said the BI officials received P50 million.
Robles himself admitted that “they took possession of all five bags containing the P50 million,” the Ombudsman noted in its Oct. 23 resolution that directed the filing of the charges.
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