Press Release
January 9, 2017

De Lima calls for Senate probe on BI bribery scandal

Sen. Leila M. de Lima today called for a Senate inquiry into the alleged bribery attempt by Chinese businessman Jack Lam to some immigration officials in exchange for the release of some of the 1,316 Chinese workers at his casino in Pampanga.

De Lima filed Senate Resolution No. 258 urging the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to inquire in aid of legislation into the circumstances and facts surrounding the bribery scandal that has plagued the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

The BI officials were reported to have received five paper bags allegedly containing P10 million each, or a total of P50 million, from Lam's middleman, former police officer Wally Sombero, at the City of Dreams hotel and casino in Paranaque City, which activity was caught on CCTV. Aguirre himself admitted that he was offered the amount of P100 million a month by Chinese gambling magnate Jack Lam in exchange for the protection by Aguirre of his gambling interests in the Philippines.

"If indeed Lam, through his middleman Wally Sombero, attempted to bribe Aguirre, why didn't the latter effect right then and there, a warrantless arrest of Sombero, the latter being in flagrante delicto, and thereafter promptly move to prevent Lam's departure or escape from the country?," she said.

"Simply put, there are too many nagging questions that necessitate a deeper independent probe by the Senate. We cannot just entrust such investigation to DOJ/NBI which are both under Aguirre's control. It's like entrusting a wolf to guard the sheep," she added.

Further to Secretary Aguirre's categorical admission that he was offered P100 million a month, the Senator from Bicol said: "This seeming lackluster response of the Justice Secretary on a bribery attempt on his person leaves much to be desired in terms of the need for the government to urgently take jurisdiction over the person of Jack Lam by effecting his arrest."

"This failure in law enforcement and immediate prosecution of Jack Lam and his cohorts has led the public to speculate on the real story behind this incident," she added in her resolution.

According to De Lima, Aguirre's lukewarm action on Lam's criminal offense is suspicious and worrisome, considering that Aguirre is the top prosecutorial officer of the government.

Based on news reports, Lam had successfully evaded government arrest by immediately leaving the Philippines after he reportedly bribed BI officials in the amount of P50 million.

Mindful that Aguirre and the two embattled BI officials belong to the President's same fraternity, the San Beda-based Lex Talionis Fraternity, De Lima also regarded President Duterte's attitude towards them as a "kid's glove treatment."

"(This) bribery scandal raises issues on the seriousness and/or capability of the government to enforce its anti-corruption laws in situations where those involved are personal friends of the appointing authority," she said.

Several fraternity brothers of the President have been appointed in high government positions since he assumed power, aside from Aguirre, BI Commissioners Michael Robles and Al Argosino.

"This is the first time that a corruption scandal involving the President's fraternity brothers has been exposed to the public. Duterte has promised that all officials who get involved in corruption will be killed," De Lima said.

The former justice secretary said she believes that anti-corruption laws should be revised and updated to deal with such cases of favoritism where those involved in corruption turn out to be fraternity brothers of the disciplining and appointing authority.

"There is a need to review and update our anti-corruption laws to more effectively respond to situations where suspect public officials have a personal relationship to the appointing authority and the chief executor of the nation's laws," she said.

The proposed Senate investigation should pave the way for enhancing the principle of command responsibility in bribery and corruption cases by penalizing negligence in the enforcement of laws on bribery and corruption, especially the negligence of top investigation and prosecution officers, in an apparent reference to Aguirre and his alleged inaction against Robles and Argosino, and also on Lam.

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