MANILA — A suspected Chinese drug lord who was allegedly set free by the subordinates of former Philippine National Police chief Gen. Oscar Albayalde some 6 years ago has re-entered the country using a fake passport, a senator investigating the issue said Monday.
Johnson Lee allegedly paid P50 million for his freedom when he was nabbed in 2013 by the Pampanga police, then headed by Albayalde, in an operation where some 13 subordinates were accused of pilfering about 160 kilos of drugs, former police official Benjamin Magalong claimed in a recent Senate hearing.
"The latest thing we found out about Johnson Lee — in fairness to Immigration, it came from them — he came in through another passport," said Sen. Richard Gordon, who led the hearing as chairperson of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
"Iyan ang isa kong iimbestigahin sunod. Dapat 'pag may crime, meron nang order sa Immigration bantayan niyo iyan. Something is wrong in Immigration that they should fix also," he told ANC.
(That's one of the issues I will investigate next. If there is a crime, the Immigration should already have an order to keep watch.)
Gordon did not immediately respond to request for clarification on the date of Lee's supposed re-entry and his possible whereabouts.
The Bureau of Immigration's intelligence officers are "verifying this report" and will coordinate with Gordon "to secure more information," its spokesperson Dana Sandoval said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
The justice department is re-investigating the 2013 operation against Lee.
Albayalde, who resigned as PNP chief last week, earlier denied that he protected his former subordinates from dismissal, saying the penalty against them was downgraded to demotion after they filed a motion for reconsideration.
An earlier Senate investigation, meanwhile, looked into bribes allegedly pocketed by Immigration officials from Chinese gambling lords and illegal workers.
The Philippines has seen a spike in the arrival of Chinese tourists and workers since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power in mid-2016 and immediately set about warming relations with Beijing.
The Immigration should "follow and check" people "of ill repute," said Gordon.
"Before they count money, they should count national interest first because you could have a situation where these guys are really eroding the moral fiber of the country," he said.