The Sandiganbayan on Friday, June 25, convicted former Bureau of Immigration (BI) Deputy Commissioners Al C. Argosino and Michael B. Robles, and former police officer and Asian Gaming Service Providers Association, Inc. (AGSPA) President Wenceslao Sombrero Jr. of graft and plunder.
They were held criminally liable for extorting P50 million from 1,316 arrested Chinese nationals who were found to have violated immigration laws in 2016.
For plunder, the Sandiganbayan sentenced Argosino, Robles and Sombrero to reclusion perpetua (20 to 40 years imprisonment). For graft, they were meted out a prison term ranging from six to 10 years. They were banned permanently from holding public office.
They are currently detained at the Quezon City Jail Annex of Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
The Sandiganbayan, however, dismissed the charges against them for violation of Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code on direct bribery, and Presidential Decree (PD) No. 46 which prohibits the act of giving gifts to public employees.
The court ruled that the direct bribery and giving of gifts charges “are included in plunder committed through a series of acts as described in Section 1(d)(2) of RA 7080″ (the plunder law).
A copy of the Sandiganbayan decision was not immediately available.
“The ill-gotten wealth accumulated, amassed, or acquired by accused Argosino and Robles in the amount of P50 million now under the custody of the concerned government agencies is hereby forfeited in favor of the State,” the dispositive portion of the decision stated.
In the case of Sombrero, the court issued a similar ruling but it did not specify the amount.
It was Sombero who facilitated the deal for Argosino and Robles with Chinese gaming tycoon Jack Lam, also known as Lam Yin Lok, on Nov. 27, 2016. Lam was slapped with a violation of PD 46 for giving P50 million.
In exchange for the money, they were to provide a “favor” for the release of the Chinese nationals “who were arrested and detained at Fontana Leisure Park, Clark Field, Pampanga, for violating Philippine immigration laws,” the charge sheet against them stated.
Argosino and Robles admitted that they received P50 million from Lam at the City of Dreams Manila in Parañaque City on Nov, 27, 2016 with Sombero as their middle man. But in their defense, they claimed that they would be using the money in a bribery case against Lam.
However, prosecutors found it fishy why Argosino and Robles gave P2 million to Sombero had they really wanted to use the money as evidence against Lam.