Ex-immigration commissioners withdraw complaint vs Jack Lam

MANILA, Philippines – Former Bureau of Immigration (BI) commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles moved to withdraw the criminal complaint they filed against gaming tycoon Jack Lam, according to Lam's lawyer Raymond Fortun.

Fortun forwarded to reporters the first page of Argosino and Robles' verified joint motion to withdraw their complaint, which was earlier filed before the Parañaque City Prosecutor's Office. The two had accused Lam of corruption of public officers and violation of the anti-wiretapping law.

When they filed the complaint last December, Argosino and Robles said it was their "gift" to President Rodrigo Duterte. The President still fired the two, his fellow Bedans and fraternity brothers at Lex Talionis.

Argosino and Robles had been accused of extorting P50 million from Lam in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Chinese illegally working at Lam's Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Pampanga. But the two alleged they were bribed by Lam and that they took the money as evidence of corruption. (READ: Philippines detains hundreds of Chinese in casino raid)

"Mr President, we were able to give you the living proof that Jack Lam is into corruption. And we are the first officers, we were able to file corruption charges against Jack Lam," Argosino said then.

'Mistaken assumption'

But now they have changed their minds.

Argosino and Robles said they were "constrained" to withdraw the complaint because "parties to the instant complaint executed affidavits of recantation and clarification which materially affect the instance case."

"Review of the affidavits would show that the instant complaint was likewise based on mistaken assumption or interpretation of facts and circumstances," they stated in their motion.

Argosino and Robles added that they have "decided to refrain from pursuing the instant case, now and in the future." (READ: DOJ chief feels 'betrayed' by frat brothers at BI)

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said it has not been formally informed of this development. Fortun said a copy of the motion was sent to Lam's address at Fontana in Pampanga, as a required courtesy copy. The lawyer added that his client is out of the country at the moment.

Lam still faces a pending complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) before the Office of the Ombudsman last January 27. Argosino and Robles are also included in the NBI complaint.

The complaint is for direct bribery, graft, and violation of Presidential Decree No. 46, which prohibits public officials from receiving gifts and also prohibits private persons from giving them.

"From the beginning, the complaint should not have been filed. Nonetheless, it will have no effect on the resolution of the case by the Ombudsman, as the reasons given by the NBI in charging everyone for graft and corrupt practices are different," Fortun said.

Lam was cleared in the scandal by Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee which investigated the case. Gordon said it was extortion on the part of Argosino and Robles, and not bribery.

No arrest warrant has been issued for Lam, so far, but Duterte pronounced back in December that he wants Lam arrested for economic sabotage.

When asked how the police plan to arrest Lam without a warrant and acting only on Duterte's orders, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald dela Rosa said then: "Hanapan natin ng paraan (We'll find a way)." – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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