MANILA - (UPDATE) Two Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials on Tuesday admitted to accepting P50 million from gambling tycoon Jack Lam, but insisted they only did so as part of an investigation against the Macau-based businessman.
They also claimed P2 million of the P50 million went to former police official Wally Sombero, a former police official linked to Lam, while P18 million was pocketed by retired police general Charles Calima, chief of the BI’s intelligence unit.
BI deputy commissioners Michael Robles and Al Argosino showed reporters the cash bundles they accepted last November 27 from Sombero who allegedly negotiated for the release of over 1,300 supposedly undocumented workers arrested in Lam's online gambling casino.
Robles and Argosino said they kept the money as evidence but did not arrest Sombero because they had yet to prove his ties to Lam.
"We are all lawyers and we decided at that time it was turned over to us that we do not have the goods yet on Jack Lam," Argosino said.
Argosino also denied they kept the money for their personal gain.
"We could have run away. We could have made our early retirement when the minimum wage was less than P10,000 a month. You could just imagine the amount of money. I could not have gotten this in my retirement from the government," he stressed.
"I could have easily just gotten this and had my retirement. And yet my comrades and I continued our investigation."
The deputy commissioners said they deferred revealing their evidence because of a "conspiracy" headed by Calima.
Argosino said Calima approached him sometime after December 1, insinuating that CCTV cameras at the City of Dreams hotel-casino captured the BI officials' meeting with Sombero.
The two commissioners said they later confirmed that Calima had the CCTV footage as well as an audio recording of the meeting.
This, Argosino said, proves that Calima was in cahoots with Sombero.
"Ano ang kinalaman ni General Charles Calima kay Wally Sombero, and why does he have that audio recording? Why does he need that recording?" Arogosino said.
"What Wally Sombero and General Charles Calima did not know is that we are tasked to investigate in the best way we can in accordance to the law and pursuant to the [desire] of President Duterte to eradicate corruption here in the Bureau of Immigration."
He added they did not arrest Calima because "he was an intelligence officer and we did not have the capability that time to arrest him."
Robles and Argosino have filed criminal charges against Calima, Sombero, Lam and the businessman's aides.
They have also turned over Lam's supposed evidence to the Department of Justice.