ldquo;Please be informed that your co-terminous appointment in the Bureau of Immigration is hereby terminated. As such, you are no longer required to report for work effective immediately,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre, who exercises administrative supervision over the BI, ordered the dismissal of Calima and Chan after he earlier recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte the dismissal of BI deputy commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles, who admitted receiving P50 million from Lam’s camp in what they claimed to be a covert investigation on the reported bribery for the release of 1,316 arrested Chinese nationals in the casino mogul’s Fontana Resorts and Casino in Clark Field, Pampanga.
Argosino and Robles surrendered P30 million in cash bundles to the Justice Department after keeping the money for 16 days. They claimed that P18 million went to Calima and that P2 million went to retired police official Wally Sombero, who acted as Lam’s middleman.
They earlier filed a 30-day leave of absence to allow the separate probes of the National Bureau of Investigation and BI, but Aguirre has recommended they be sacked.
Aguirre sought the dismissal of Argosino and Robles—both fraternity brothers who helped during Duterte’s presidential campaign—and ordered Calima and Chan dismissed even before the NBI and the BI concluded their respective investigations.
Aguirre said dismissing the officials was not a prejudgment of the extortion allegations.
“The action was called for because of the gravity of the accusations. This will also prevent the parties involved from interfering with the ongoing investigations,” he said
“A public office is a public trust. A public officer should be like Ceasar’s wife, beyond suspicion,” Aguirre said, reiterating the strict policy of President Duterte against corruption in government offices.
Aguirre said the NBI and BI probes would proceed to determine who could be held criminally liable for the alleged extortion of Lam.
The two BI officials denied the extortion charge and said they were conducting an investigation and were framed at the City of Dreams Casino in Parañaque City, where CCTV cameras captured them accepting money.
Aguirre said he learned of the incident from Sombero days before the two BI officials confided in him.
According to Sombero, the money was not for processing of the license of Lam’s casino but rather for the release of the 1,316 Chinese nationals arrested inside the casino on November 24.
Lam has been blacklisted over the illegal casino operation and was ordered arrested by President Duterte for alleged bribery, economic sabotage and harboring illegal aliens.
Aguirre said the remaining P20 million from the P50 million received by Argosino and Robles remained missing as neither Calima nor Sombero have surrendered any amout.
Argosino and Robles earlier filed complaints for corruption of public officials and violation of anti-wiretapping law against Lam, Sombero, Calima and Lam’s two Chinese interpreters before the Parañaque City Prosecutor’s Office.
According to the complaint, Calima took P18 million from the P48 million supposedly to be shared with Sombero, BI Commissioner Jaime Morente, Chan and newspaper columnist Ramon Tulfo, who exposed the extortion on December 10.
Argosino and Robles said they gave Calima P18 million on December 9 after the latter told them that he knew what happened in the City of Dreams and that Sombero had “surreptitiously, secretly and maliciously” recorded his conversation with Argosino and Robles.
Sombero and Tulfo have both denied the allegation. Tulfo said he would file libel case against Argosino and Robles.
Morente on Wednesday called on the bureau’s employees to focus on their job amid the P50-million extortion scandal.
Aguirre named Estanislao Canta, chief of the BI board of special inquiry as officer-in-charge in place of Argosino while BI fugitive search unit head Jose Carlitos Licas, was assigned to handle the duties of Robles
Both Argosino and Robles filed a 30-day leave of absence but Aguirre said the two will no longer report citing loss of trust and confidence for their alleged failure to “perform their respective duties beyond reproach.”
The two officials were caught on CCTV camera accepting money from former police chief superintendent Sombero, who is linked to Lam.
According to Sombero’s lawyer, Ted Contacto, the BI officials has asked at P100 million allegedly intended to facilitate the release of the 600 Chinese nationals illegally working for Lam’s online gambling operations in Clark.
Both Argosino and Robles admitted receiving P48 million from Sombero but said it was part of their investigation into the corruption at the bureau involving Lam, a Macau-based businessman.
The bureau’s rank and file employees, however, complained that Argosino and Robles, who had worked only six months in the bureau, were trying to clear themselves at the expense of the entire workforce.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III on Wednesday expressed support for Aguirre’s actions following the revelation of corruption in the BI.
“As PDP Laban president, I am proud of my partymate, Vit (Aguirre). I, and the rest of the party, believe in his integrity and welcome his actions to support President Duterte’s war against corruption,” Pimentel said.
The Senate leader also advocated a revamp of the Bureau of Immigration, which he said is in need of unity and modernization.
As the former chairman of the justice committee, Pimentel said he is aware of the challenges faced by the Bureau of Immigration, and its desperate need for modernization.”
The Palace, meanwhile, said it would seek reports of possible bribery attempts by Lam on former CDC president and Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade.
In an interview, Tugade said that Lam also approached him during his child’s wedding and tried to give him an “object” to show appreciation.
Tugade said he turned down the gift.
In Cambodia, Duterte warned his Cabinet secretaries he did not mind losing them if they engage in corrupt activities.
Reiterating his promise to stop corruption and end crime before a cheering crowd of Filipinos in Cambodia, Duterte expressed disdain for corrupt officials after a brewing scandal at the Bureau of Immigration.
Duterte did not mention the bureau, however, or Aguirre, who has supervision over Immigration.