MANILA – Senator Richard Gordon on Monday said Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II is not yet off the hook in the bribery scandal involving gambling tycoon Jack Lam.
Speaking to dzMM, Gordon said there are circumstances that put a cloud of doubt over Aguirre’s integrity, such as his failure to swiftly act on the alleged attempt of Lam’s aide, Wally Sombero, to bribe him.
“Hindi pa siya off the hook diyan, dahil bakit hindi niya sinabing, ‘Oh are you trying to bribe me?’” Gordon said.
“Pero siguro may pressure sa kanya sa San Beda. Mayroon silang reunion at hindi na niya naasikaso,” he added.
The alleged bribery attempt took place at a hotel in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig where Aguirre and President Rodrigo Duterte’s fellow San Beda College alumni were having a reunion.
In the first hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the issue, Aguirre said there was a bribery attempt but he had no evidence to prove that there was a “covert act” of corruption of a public official.
Gordon also said that sacked Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Al Argosino claimed in the hearing that Aguirre let him join a meeting with Sombero, who would later turn up with P50 million in alleged bribe.
“Hindi maganda ang sinabi ni Argosino nung panghuli na. Ang sabi niya, ang nagsabi sa kanya na maiwan ka doon eh si Justice Secretary Aguirre. Kapag sinabing ‘maiwan ka na dyan, bahala ka na diyan’, ibig sabihin bahala ka na kung tatanggap ka o ano, diskartehan mo iyan,” Gordon said.
“But in fairness to Secretary Aguirre sabi niya, wala na siyang sinabi. Ang sinabi niya lang nag-text siya kay Sombero, na huwag kang magtiwala dyan kay Calima,” referring to the sacked BI intelligence chief Charles Calima.
The meeting between Sombero, Argosino, and another BI associate commissioner, Michael Robles, took place in a casino hotel in Parañaque.
Argosino claimed that they received the P50 million as part of their intelligence work. P2 million of the total amount allegedly went to Sombero, who earlier said it was for the processing of the over 1,300 illegal Chinese workers arrested at Lam’s Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, Pampanga on November 24.
Of the P48 million, P18 million allegedly went to Calima, who earlier prodded Argosino and Robles about the exchange of money. He said he took the P18 million from the two BI associate commissioners as part of his counter-intelligence operation.
In the hearing, Gordon slammed Argosino and Robles for bringing home the large sum which was supposed to be kept as an evidence. He said that based on the testimonies so far of Argosino, Robles, and Calima, negotiations for the release of the Chinese workers indeed took place.
“Nakita mo ang hangad ng dalawa… talagang mukhang may negotiation. Ganoon din kay Calima. Muhang may negotiation din,” Gordon said. “We’re not judging yet baka naman mapakagpaliwanag.”