OMBUDSMAN: P49,999,000 STILL PLUNDER THRESHOLD
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.”
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.
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.