OM­BUDS­MAN: P49,999,000 STILL PLUN­DER THRESH­OLD

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - NEWS - By Vince F. Nonato @VinceNona­toINQ

For­mer Bu­reau of Im­mi­gra­tion (BI) deputy com­mis­sion­ers Al Ar­gosino and Michael Robles can­not in­voke the loss of P1,000 from the P50 mil­lion in bribe money that they al­legedly re­ceived to seek dis­missal of the plun­der case against them, Om­buds­man pros­e­cu­tors told the anti­graft court Sandi­gan­bayan.

In a 20-page op­po­si­tion dated April 16, the Of­fice of the Spe­cial Prose­cu­tor asked the court’s Sixth Divi­sion to deny the mo­tions to quash the plun­der case filed by Ar­gosino and Robles, as well as for­mer po­lice of­fi­cial Wences­lao Sombero Jr.

Even if P1,000 was miss­ing from the P50 mil­lion that they sur­ren­dered to the Depart­ment of Jus­tice, the Om­buds­man said this “does not ex­on­er­ate the ac­cused from be­ing in­dicted for the crime of plun­der.”

P2-M cut

The Om­buds­man in­sisted that the case reached the P50-mil­lion thresh­old, be­cause Ar­gosino him­self in­sisted that he re­ceived P48 mil­lion and Sombero took a P2-mil­lion cut from the bribe money he de­liv­ered on be­half of Ma­cau-based ty­coon Jack Lam.

Even if the phys­i­cal count of the money fell short, pros­e­cu­tors said “the records of the case in­du­bitably show that the to­tal amount re­ceived by the ac­cused was P50 mil­lion.”

For the Om­buds­man, the ques­tion of whether the BI of­fi­cials’ pos­ses­sion of the bribe money was meant to gather ev­i­dence against Lam or amass wealth for them­selves should be threshed out in a full-blown trial.

‘Main plun­derer’

Pros­e­cu­tors re­jected Sombero’s ar­gu­ment that they had failed to pin­point a “main plun­derer.”

The pros­e­cu­tion panel said the text of the plun­der law, Repub­lic Act No. 7080, “makes no ref­er­ence to a ‘main plun­derer’ as an es­sen­tial el­e­ment of the crime.”

The re­quire­ment to iden­tify a main plun­derer was laid down by the Supreme Court in its July 2016 de­ci­sion to ac­quit for­mer Pres­i­dent Glo­ria Ma­ca­pa­gal-Ar­royo in her P366-mil­lion Philip­pine Char­ity Sweep­stake Of­fice in­tel­li­gence fund case.

Ar­gosino and Robles were ac­cused of de­mand­ing the P50mil­lion pay­off from Lam in ex­change for the re­lease of 1,316 Chi­nese na­tion­als who worked for him with­out visas.

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