Duterte sacks 2 immigration deputy commissioners

SINGAPORE – President Rodrigo Duterte has sacked two Bureau of Immigration (BI) deputy commissioners, his fraternity brothers, due to allegations of corruption.

Duterte made the announcement in a press conference upon his arrival in Davao City from a trip to Singapore early Saturday, December 17.

"I have directed the dismissal of the two associate commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration who are now tainted with corrupton. They will be held accountable for their actions," the President said.

Duterte later confirmed he was referring to Al Argosino and Michael Robles, the  BI deputy commissioners accused of extorting P50 million from gaming tycoon Jack Lam for the release of hundreds of Chinese nationals working at the latter's Pampanga casino without the proper work visas.

"You know what, they are my fraternity frothers, if you must know. They are from San Beda and they are my fraternity brothers but I told [Special Assistant] Bong [Go] to tell them resign, you’re fired," he said.

It marked the first time for Duterte tp fire his own appointees, who were designated to their posts only  in August.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, also a member of Lex Talionis Fraternitas, Incorporated, had recommended their termination. Aguirre, who endorsed the appointment of Argosino, described the two officials as his "friends" who were part of the legal team of Duterte during the campaign.

The two are part of an Immigration Look Out Bulletin issued by the Department of Justice on Friday over an investigation into the corruption scandal.

The two were caught on camera receiving paper bags full of money from retired police colonel Wally Sombero, Lam's representative, on November 27.  Sombero accused them of extorting P50 million from Lam to free nearly 600 of the latter's 1,300 illegal Chinese casino workers arrested by authorities in November.

When media reported the corruption scandal, Argosino and Robles held a news briefing two weeks after the incident to announce that they had turned over the money to the DOJ. They claimed they were framed up and that they accepted the money as part of an "investigation" on Lam. (READ: P50-M extortion? Lam tried to bribe us, say immigration officials)

Aguirre had earlier relieved BI intelligence chief Charles Calima Jr over the scandal.

The incident has prompted Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon to file Senateo Resolution 256 seeking to reorganize the agency to make it corruption-resistant. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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