AFTER a heated debate that almost ended in blows, senators agreed on Wednesday to hold two parallel investigations on the bribery scandal at the Bureau of Immigration, according to Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.
“This will nurture a peaceful atmosphere in the Senate considering that we need to pass a number of legislation before the adjournment of session in March,” Sotto said after the approval of his motion to divide the “organization” and “administration” aspects of scandal.
“We need a conducive environment by resolving this issue at the soonest possible time,” Sotto said a day after Senators Miguel Zubiri and Antonio Trillanes IV almost came to blows after trading insults on the Senate floor.
The word war erupted after Zubiri questioned the prudence of letting Trillanes’ committee handle a proposal of Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon to study a reorganization of the BI after a corruption scandal that resulted in the dismissal of two immigration commissioners.
Zubiri wondered why the matter should be handled by Trillanes’ panel when the Bureau of Immigration is actually a line agency of the Department of Justice and should be tackled by the justice committee of Senator Richard Gordon.
But Trillanes accused Zubiri and Gordon of attempting to “whitewash” the probe.
Gordon, on the other hand, said he will initiate a motu proprio probe on the issue on Monday in his capacity as the chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee.
“I will investigate it motu proprio so we can get to the bottom of it,” Gordon said, adding his panel will invite Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and sacked immigration commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles.
Argosino and Robles were accused of extorting P50 million from gambling tycoon Jack Lam in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 illegal Chinese workers in Pampanga. Both have denied the allegation.
As of Wednesday, only 259 of the 1,316 Chinese nationals who were arrested for illegally working at an online gambling facility inside the Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark Freeport have been deported, the BI said.
BI spokesperson Antonette Mangrobang said the deportation procedure depends on how soon they can provide their tickets and the go signal given by the National Bureau of Investigation.
“The number of actual deportees depend on how soon can they provide their outbound tickets and clearance from NBI that they do not have pending criminal cases,” Mangrobang explained.
She added that the more than 1,000 foreigners have deportation orders already.
“The Bureau’s intention is to deport all of them as soon as possible. However, the numbers of those who will be actially deported depends on the Chinese nationals themselves and how soon they can provide us with outbound tickets back to China,” the Mangrobang said.