PNP refuses Crame detention for officials in immigration bribery scandal

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) has refused to detain in the secure Camp Crame custodial center the officials charged for plunder in the P50-million Bureau of Immigration (BI) bribery scandal.

Former immigration deputy commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles and alleged middleman Wally Sombero are all detained at the Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, but all requested to be transferred to Camp Crame for their safety.

The former immigration offcials have been charged for accepting a P50-million bribe from gaming tycoon Jack Lam in exchange for  freeing nearly half of the 1,300 illegal Chinese workers who were arrested in Lam’s Pampanga casino. Sombero, a former police officer, acted as a middleman for Lam.

“For reasons of practicality, frugality in using public funds, and ensuring the safety of both accused and government personnel, accused Argosino, Robles, and Sombero should be detained in an appropriate detention facility under the authority and supervision of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP),” Police Chief Inspector Romulo Flores, the head of the PNP’s custodial service unit, said in a comment sent to the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Friday, April 13.

Flores said that no proof was submitted by Argosino, Robles, and Sombero that their lives were in danger.

Argosino has been a lawyer for two decades, while Robles used to be a public prosecutor. They are fraternity brothers of President Rodrigo Duterte.

According to them, detainees who are accused under Duterte’s anti-drugs campaign pose threats to their safety.

“The purpose of protecting their lives and safety due to imminent threat and danger from other detainees is at best speculative,” Flores said.

Flores said the detention of the 3 in Camp Crame would cost the PNP money that could be “properly channeled to law enforcement functions.”

The most prominent officials detained in Camp Crame now are Senator Leila de Lima and former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla.

Ombudsman prosecutors also opposed the request to transfer the suspects to Camp Crame. The Sandiganbayan 6th Division is set to rule on the motion after receiving the oppositions. –

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 or tweet @lianbuan.