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2 immigration deputies go on leave amid bribery probe

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TWO deputy commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration on Monday filed a 30-day leave of absence following allegations that they were involved in a P50-million payoff for the release of 70 Chinese nationals who were among the 1,316 arrested in an illegal online casino operation at the Fontana Leisure Park, in Clark Field, Pampanga.

The two officials—Al Argosino and Micahel B. Robles—went on leave after Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente ordered them and the bureau’s intelligence chief, Charles T. Calima, to explain in 24 hours their alleged participation in the suspicious escape of the arrested Chinese nationals.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente. Photo of www.immigration.gov.ph

In a press statement, both Argosino and Robles said they want to give investigators a free hand in conducting the probe. 

“In the interest of justice and in our adherence to the rule of law and our belief in the truth, we are taking a leave of absence from our duties as deputy commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration for thirty days effective Dec. 12, 2016,” the two said in a press statement.

Morente said that the order giving them 24 hours to explain their side was his  initiative separate from the NBI investigation ordered by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.

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“We will support this and any other parallel investigation on the matter,” Morente said.

“The Bureau of Immigration has been consistent in adhering to the guidance of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to upgrade the level of service to all our clients and weed out corruption in the bureaucracy. We have taken pains to address all irregularities with impartiality and will continue to take decisive action as needed,” Morente said.

The Justice secretary said that he received information that some of the arrested Chinese offered P100,000 to P250,000 per head for their release.

Aguirre ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe Immigration officials and personnel who conducted the raid of Fontana online casino and the questionable release and escape of some arrested Chinese nationals.

All of the arrested Chinese were working illegally in the country as most of them have no working permit while others possessed Cagayan Export Zone Authority visas.

The detainees would not have been able to escape without the aid of the Immigration employees, Aguirre said.

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