MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe the alleged payoffs in the Bureau of Immigration (BI) over the 1,316 Chinese nationals recently arrested in an illegal online casino of Chinese gaming mogul Jack Lam at the Clark Freeport in Pampanga.
Aguirre earlier considered letting the BI investigate its own ranks, but later decided to give the task to the NBI to avoid any suspicion of whitewash.
“We will leave no stone unturned and there will be no sacred cows. We will hold those found responsible accountable,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre earlier vowed to probe reported payoffs in the escape of several of the arrested Chinese nationals.
He revealed in a press conference the information that some of the arrested Chinese offered P100,000 to P250,000 per head for their release.
Over 70 of them managed to escape by supposedly jumping over the walls of their temporary detention facility at Fontana Leisure Park and Casino Hotel. More than half of them were either rearrested or have surrendered.
Aguirre said the detainees would have not been able to escape without the aid of authorities.
Lam has been blacklisted over the illegal casino operation and was ordered arrested by President Duterte for alleged economic sabotage and harboring illegal aliens.
Aguirre, however, explained that Lam could be allowed to return to the country and continue his businesses provided that he settle his tax deficiencies and get the proper permit from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said the President has ordered the arrest of Lam for alleged bribery and economic sabotage.
He said law enforcers were also ordered to arrest Lam’s Filipino interpreter, retired police general Wally Sombero, for supposedly arranging the alleged bribe offer.
Dela Rosa said the bribery was related to the recent arrest of the thousands of undocumented Chinese nationals working for Lam.
Lam allegedly tried to bribe Aguirre to secure their release.
The STAR earlier reported the one-stop-shop that handled the undocumented Chinese employees of the Fontana casino turns out to be headed by the daughter of Pagcor chair Andrea Domingo, who accused Lam of attempting to bribe her over his unauthorized casino operations in Clark.
Domingo’s daughter Karen Domingo-Gandamra reportedly took over the post only a month ago, replacing former Bureau of Immigration Angeles City field office chief Janice Christine de Jesus-Corres.
Corres was reportedly implicated in the formal complaint filed by her staff for alleged irregularities in the approval of working permits and other documents of Chinese workers at Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino, owned by Lam.
Sombero, for his part, has agreed to file a sworn statement before the NBI.
Sources said Sombero agreed to file his statement before the NBI after his meeting with Aguirre and NBI director Dante Gierran on Friday.
Sources also said the affidavit is expected to be finished by tomorrow.
The affidavit will contained details from a newspaper report saying that two deputy immigration commissioners extorted P50-million from Lam, through Sombero, in exchange for the release of 600 of the 1,000 Chinese employees of Lam’s casino at Fontana Leisure Park.
NBI spokesman Ferdinand Lavin confirmed through a text message that Sombero is currently under the NBI’s protective custody but refused to elaborate.
Sombero allegedly arranged the payment of bribe to Aguirre and Domingo to become Lam’s “godparents.” – With Ghio Ong, Perseus Echeminada