IMMIGRATION Commissioner Siegfred Mison confirmed Tuesday a story published by The Standard that a meeting had been arranged between a representative of the Chinese fugitive Wang Bo and Associate Commissioners Gilberto Repizo and Abudllah Mangotara.
Mison told the House committee on good government and public accountability that he received the information about the meeting from “a friend of the Chinese Embassy” in Manila, journalist Benny Antiporda.
The House panel is investigating allegations that Immigration officials issued a release order for Wang’s released in exchange for millions of pesos, some of which was allegedly used to bribe lawmakers into approving the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
In the June 9 hearing before the same panel, Mison denied The Standard’s story, insisting that he never spoke to the newspaper’s senior reporter, Christine Herrera.
On Tuesday, however, Mison admitted to talking to Herrera, and said he told her he had received information about the meeting.
Both Mangotara and Repizo have denied meeting with Wang’s counsel, Dennis Manalo.
Repizo admitted, however, that Manalo tried to arrange a meeting with him, but only talked to his staff as the Immigration official was in Boracay for a senior officials’ meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told the panel that she found it curious that Bryan Bantilan, the lawyer of a certain Jose Chua who filed a complaint against Wang that effectively prevented his deportation, was the same lawyer on record who represented the Chinese fugitive.
De Lima said because of the highly irregular circumstances, she formed a special investigation team to look into the controversy.
De Lima also acknowledged that deportation proceedings usually take an average of five days to implement, but in Wang’s case, it took 47 days.
During the hearing, De Lima criticized Immigration officials for not immediately implementing their deportation order against Wang.
“None of this would have happened if they deported Wang within a reasonable period from the issuance of the March 5 summary deportation order,” De Lima told the panel.
The summary deportation order was eventually held in abeyance pending the House probe and the outcome of the Justice Department’s investigation of the bribery and corruption allegations against Immigration officials involved in the case.
“This case became so complicated and messy with all these allegations of bribery. It is still my duty to really get into the bottom of this. It is my duty to find out exactly what is the truth because as I said earlier, this has really tainted the integrity of BI as an institution and also the Justice Department,” De Lima said.
During the same hearing, Wang denied offering any bribes to the Immigration officials, and also denied bribing any lawmakers.
Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, leader of the House independent minority bloc, urged the House panel to look into the supposed fabricated estafa charges against Wang.
“There are so many questions that need answers after this hearing. Why did Bantilan represent Chua and Wang? The committee should dig deeper,” Romualdez said.
Also on Tuesday, the Palace said it will verify allegations in The Standard story dated June 16 that Immigration officials tampered with the case records of Wang to justify ordering his release on May 21. The story was based on a transcript of the May 21 meeting obtained by The Standard.
Will verify,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., through a text message.
“As this is a DOJ matter, and there is still an ongoing inquiry, it is best that we await the results of the investigation,” Coloma also said.
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