EMBATTLED Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente did not return the P18 million in alleged bribe money to the Justice Department as ordered, but turned it over to the Philippine National Police to be used as evidence in the filing of graft charges against two sacked Immigration deputy commissioners, Al Argosino and Michael Robles.
Morente said that he no longer has jurisdiction over former intelligence chief Charles Calima after Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II dismissed him from the service on December 13, for his alleged involvement in an extortion scandal.
Meanwhile, former police officer Wally Sombero turned over to the Office of the Ombudsman his P2 million share from the P50-million bribe that Macau-based gambling tycoon Jack Lam allegedly gave to Argosino and Robles.
Sombero’s lawyer, Ted Contacto, said the money will be used as evidence in the graft case he filed against the two former Immigration officials.
Sombero also filed a supplemental affidavit to his graft complaint against Argosino and Robles.
“In response to your directive, may I respectfully inform you that Gen. Calima has been terminated… [t]hus, I have no jurisdiction over him. However, Gen. Calima has appraised me that he has filed a complaint with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Philippine National Police, for plunder against the two associate commissioners,” Morente said in a memo to Aguirre.
“Together with his filing, he turned over the two paper bags to the said office, which, after counting, revealed the amount of P18,000,000. The custody over the evidence is with the CIDG, hence the undersigned could no longer turn over same to the honorable secretary,” Morente said.
Aguirre did not accept Morente’s explanation, and said he would ask the CIDG to turn over the money to the Justice Department or the National Bureau of Investigation.
Reports said Calima turned over the money to the CIDG on December 21, the same day Aguirre ordered Morente to turn over the money to the Justice Department.
Aguirre insisted that the money should have been turned over immediately to the Justice Department.
“I authorized Morente to do all things necessary to secure the money. Before I terminated Calima, Morente should have asked Calima to turn over… everything that is to be turned over,” Aguirre said.
Both Argosino and Robles has earlier filed complaints for corruption of public officials and violation of anti-wiretapping law against Lam, Sombero, Calima and Lam’s two Chinese interpreters.
The two BI officials allegedly accepted P50 million in payoffs from Lam in exchange for the release of 600 out of 1,316 Chinese illegally working at the Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, Pampanga.
They were caught on video accepting the money from Sombero.
Both denied the allegations against them, saying they were investigating Lam’s corrupt activities.
Argosino and Robles are facing plunder and graft complaints filed by Calima before the Office of the Ombudsman.
In his complaint, Calima said Argosino and Robles must be held criminally and administratively liable for bribery and extortion.
Calima said the bribery of the two deputy commissioners was just an entrapment operation at the City of Dreams in Parañaque City on November 27.
He said Sombero called him up on November 25, informing him that immigration officials were trying to extort money from Lam for the release of the 1,316 overstaying Chinese nationals.
In the complaint, he said he requested Sombero to identify the officials and to give him their contact numbers.
During their meeting at the City of Dreams, Argosino and Robles left him two paper bags supposedly containing money. He added that it was Argosino who told him he was able to get P50 million from his “new connection” and that another P50 million would be distributed to other immigration officials.
Calima denied any involvement in the extortion attempt, saying Argosino and Robles left a paper bag for him, but he did not even open it.
Among the pieces of evidences were printouts of text message exchanges with Sombero, and a police memorandum for the temporary custody of the P18 million that Calima got from the two immigration deputy commissioners.
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