By: Nelson S. Badilla
SO far, the most scandalous corruption incident that happened in 6-month-old Duterte administration was the P50 Million extortion/bribery incident at the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
The crime was both extortion and bribery defending on what side we will use as subject of a sentence.
If it is on the BI officials, the P50 Million should be called extortion.
If we use Jack Lam, the P50 Million was bribery.
Whatever, the crime was a form of corruption.
The incident that happened on November 27 at the City of Dreams in Paranaque City had two versions.
One was that two top BI officials first demanded P50 Million in exchange of the release of 1,350 Chinese nationals who were arrested by BI operatives at the Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino at Clark in Pampanga, according to retired Chief Superintendent Wally Sombero, who was speaking for Lam in the plot of BI extortion/corruption story.
Sombero said BI Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles received the P50 Million as shown in the video in the City of Dreams.
However, the Chinese nationals were not released, because Argosino and Robles had asked for another P100 Million, according to Sombero.
In a press conference, Argosino and Robles did not deny that they received P50 Million from Sombero, but disclosed that the bribes offer by Lam’s camp was divided among three groups: P30 Million for Argosino and Robles, P18 Million for former Chief Superintendent Charles Calima Jr. who was the chief intelligence officer of the BI at the time the corruption took place, and P2 Million went to Sombero as a “commission.”
Argosino and Robles said the P30 Million will be used as evidence against the graft and corruption charges they filed against Calima and his cohorts when asked by a reporter why they held the P30 Million in their hands.
Calima has similar version but favors him, of course.
Calima said he did not accept the P18 Million, but was kept at the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Camp Crame, which would be used as an evidence of graft and corruption charges that he would file against Argosino and Robles before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Sombero said the P2 Million that he got was not a commission, but budget for the expenses for the release of 1,350 Chinese nationals.
Sombero submitted the P2 Million to the Office of the Ombudsman that will be used as evidence against Argosino and Robles for the graft and corruption charges he slapped on the two.
The criminal cases that were filed by Sombero at the Office of the Ombudsman was in connection with the P50 Million supposed extortion incident that happened at the BI.
The incident got two different titles: P50 Million Extortion Scam and P50 Million Bribery Scandal, which produced by two different groups.
Argosino and Robles were law fraternity brothers both of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and President Rodrigo Duterte.
Calima was sacked by Aguirre, while Argosino and Robles resigned from their post.
Argosino and Robles resigned because they were told by Duterte’s trusted man to resign before the President would sack them out.
The public was expecting that Duterte would lambast and humiliate Argosino, Robles, and Calima in public, which would be done through press conference, but it never happened.
What the President did was an expression of a simple statement about his strong dislike on corrupt people in the government.
I was waiting for Duterte to present Argosino, Robles, and Calima before a press conference where the three were standing up while Duterte was strongly criticizing and humiliating them for the scandalous corruption that took place at the BI.
As he blew his top, Duterte would confront and perhaps box and kick them.
But, the drama of how Duterte would express in public his anger against corrupt government officials never happened.
The denials and counter-claims of those involved happened as expected as other people did the same thing in the past.
Cases for violating anti-graft and corruption practices law have been filed against the principal players of the P50 Million extortion/bribery scandal.
To prove their guilt is a different thing, however.
The guilt would only be known defending on how the criminal case will move from the Office of the Ombudsman up to the Sandiganbayan—after Duterte’s term in 2022.
The issue at hand is the message of the scandal at the BI.
The changed of multi-million money from a gambling operator, who is not even a Filipino, through a former police general to top government officials reaffirms the truth that corruption in the government is not ready to end, despite the country has a President who is extremely mad about graft and corruption.
Even the government officials knew very well that Duterte is a kind of leader produced by a dirty city called Davao City who used even the most dangerous scheme to end a problem, still corruption and even plundering continue to happen.
Corruption and plundering continue to happen precisely because any element in proving the guilt of the corrupt and plunderers can be directly, or indirectly, bought by money.
The end-result is that the government lawyers failed to prove the guilt of the accused.
Thus, the accused corrupt and plunderers are acquitted due to “lack of evidence.”
The Filipino people sent Duterte to Malacanang with over 16 Mliion votes as they strongly believed that change was seriously coming, but it turned out that it is coming not against all problems of the Philippine society.
Duterte is aggressive only on war against drug menace, but not on corruption and plundering.