Ex-BI deputy withheld info about bribery: Villanueva

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2017 11:49 AM | Updated as of Jan 23 2017 12:57 PM

Former Bureau of Immigration Deputy Commissioner Al Argosino is in hot water for allegedly lying and withholding information about a P50 milion bribery attempt by gambling tycoon Jack Lam, a senator said Monday.

Senator Joel Villanueva told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee in its opening of the bribery scandal probe that he believes Argosino is liable for perjury for "having provided false statements through withholding information in the Senate" and that his committee is contemplating filing contempt charges against him.

He revealed that as early as December 7, 2016, the Senate labor committee had conducted an inquiry following the arrest of more than 1,000 allegedly undocumented Chinese workers who were working in an illegal online casino in Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.

The hearing was conducted more than a week after Argosino and fellow deputy commissioner Michael Robles had already received an alleged P50 million bribe from Lam on November 27.

Villanueva said he had asked Argosino twice in that hearing if they have already established that the people arrested in the resort are indeed illegal workers. He said the deputy commissioner affirmed it twice.

"Ang tanong ko po ngayon, Mr. Chairman, na-establish na pala nila na illegal workers itong mga naaresto nila sa Fontana, e wala hong dahilan, tingin ko wala hong dahilan para nung araw ding yun ay sabihin sa amin na sinuhulan si Atty. Argosino o nasa kanila ni Mr. [Michael] Robles yung bribe money o meron sila at least na covert operations," he said.

"Malinaw po na itinago sa aming committee ni Atty. Argosino itong impormasyon na ito. He withheld very important information, thinking probably that this information will not come out," he added.

Villanueva noted Argosino already had the P50 million bribe money, but kept mum about it. He said he wondered then if Robles and Argosino's superiors were knowledgeable of the alleged operation.

"Nakakasama po ng loob dahil harap-harapan, ang dating po sa amin, ay nagsinungaling ito pong dating Associate Commissioner ng Bureau of Immigration," he said.

"Hawak hawak na pala nila yung P50 million mula kay Jack Lam at Wally Sombero nung humarap sila sa amin," affirming Senator Gordon's interpretation that there was "material concealment" on Argosino's part.

"Hindi man lang nabanggit sa amin na may entrapment. Sa media ito in-announce. sa press conference parang ipinapamukha pa nila na sila ang bida at ginawa nila ito alang-alang sa kagustuhan nila na sugpuin ang korapsyon," he added as he manifested his "absolute disgust" at what Argosino did.