MANILA - The Senate will not allow the downgrading of plunder charges against two former immigration officials after P1,000 from P50 million in alleged bribe money they received went missing, Senator Joel Villanueva said Tuesday.
"It’s terrible, it’s a mockery of our justice system…Tapos na yung hearing, pero hindi kami papayag na ibaba sa graft instead of plunder at ang lame excuse ay nawawala yung P1,000…Kami, hindi kami papayag. Hindi kami magpapaloko diyan," he told ANC's Headstart.
"It’s very clear, even during the committee hearings that they were asking for P50 million. It was clear na P50 million yung binigay sa kanila," he added.
Former deputy commissioners Michael Robles and Al Argosino appeared to have skirted a possible plunder charge after they turned over only P49,999,000 of supposed bribe money, a thousand pesos short of the P50 million needed to be charged with plunder.
The two ranking officials, who happen to be fraternity brothers of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre and President Rodrigo Duterte at San Beda College of Law's Lex Talionis Fraternitas, Inc., received the alleged bribe money from gambling tycoon Jack Lam for the release of over 1,000 allegedly undocumented Chinese workers who were working in an illegal online casino in Pampanga.
Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, said Argosino already had the P50-million bribe money but kept mum about it during the hearings last year.
The lawmaker said he believes Argosino is liable for perjury for "having provided false statements through withholding information in the Senate."
In a reply to ABS-CBN News' inquiry, the lawmaker said the Senate will make its disagreement known through its recommendation in the committee report.