JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said Tuesday he should not be blamed after the Bureau of Immigration allowed retired police officer Wally Sombero Jr. to leave the country last month before the Senate started its inquiry on the alleged P50-million bribery involving two former Immigration executives.
He said the bureau should have implemented the Immigration Look-out Bulletin order that he issued against Sombero, the alleged middleman of Chinese gaming tycoon Jack Lam who returned on Tuesday from Vancouver.
“The obligation of the immigration officer is to stop him and implement the ILBO. If he was not stopped by the Immigration Officer, that is no longer the fault of the secretary of Justice,” Aguirre said.
He said Immigration was the agency responsible for preventing Sombero Jr. from leaving the country since his name was in the ILBO list issued by his department in December last year.
He said Sombero asked permission from him to travel abroad but he refused.
In the Senate, Senator Grace Poe said the P50-million bribery scandal at the Bureau of Immigration showed that corruption was alive and well under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterre.
Duterte had promised to end corruption during last year’s elections.
Sombero’s lawyer Ted Contacto told the Senate inquiry on the case that his client had sought and secured permission from Aguirre to leave for Las Vegas on Jan. 17 last year.
But Aguirre said if he had indeed approved Sombero’s request, then he should have issued an Allow Departure Order like the one he issued to Senator Leila de Lima. De Lima had also been the subject of an ILBO issued by Aguirre.
“Sombero made a request but I have not issued an ADO allowing him to leave the country,” Aguirre said.
Earlier, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said Sombero was able to leave the country since the name on his passport was his formal name “Wenceslao” and not “Wally” as used in the ILBO.
Meanwhile, Aguirre welcomed Sombero’s statement on his arrival clearing him of any involvement in the bribery scandal.
He said that was what he had said several times previously but that it was better that it came from Sombero himself.
Sombero earlier accused dismissed Immigration deputy commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles of extorting P50 million from Lam in exchange for the release of illegal Chinese workers arrested by authorities in November last year at Lam’s casino and leisure park in Clark, Pampanga.
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