DoJ chief confirms Fontana bribe offer, won’t prosecute

A formal investigation has been ordered by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre on the Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel who allowed more than 70 out of the  undocumented Chinese nationals arrested last November 25  to escape from Fontana Leisure Park and Casino Hotel where they were being held by government investigators.
There had originally been 1, 316 Chinese who were arrested for working illegally in Clark, Pampanga.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente assured that there will be no whitewash in deportation proceedings against the Chinese who were allegedly employed to operate online gambling operations.
Morente gave the assurance  following reports that bribes were being offered for the release of the Chinese nationals who were rounded up last November  24 inside the Fontana Leisure Park and Casino Hotel.
The BI has been tasked to determine who should be held responsible for the escape of the illegal Chinese workers which happened at around 3 am yesterday.
“It was just  Thursday night that a slew of reports to me about the bribes… Based on information that I was given, P100,000 to 250,000 in bribes that were offered to free them…I’m sure heads will roll”, Aguirre said.
The DoJ chief said, the police have managed to capture majority of the escapees although 26 of them still remain at-large.
Aguirre said the Chinese consul has been cooperating with authorities to the extent of directing the leaders of the arrested Chinese workers to convince those who escaped to surrender or face the possibility of imprisonment and being blacklisted in the Philippines and China.
Aguirre clarified that Macau-based gaming tycoon Jack Lam and his interpreter and former police general WallySombrero cannot be held liable for bribery despite asking him to serve as “ninong” (godfather) to protect Lam’s gaming operations in the country.

Contrary to earlier reports, Aguirre said it was only Sombrero and not Lam who had talked to him about the matter during their meeting at Shangri-La Hotel at Bonifacio Global City (BGC) last November 26.
He said he agreed to meet with Lam’s group because of their concerns about the condition of the arrested Chinese workers.
Before leaving the meeting, Aguirre recounted that Sombrero told him that Lam is one of the biggest gaming operators in the Philippines and one of the biggest junket operators in Macau and that he owns several resorts in the country such as Fontana Resort and  Fort Ilocandia.
Aguirre said Sombrero asked him to serve as Lam’s “padrino.”
 He (Lam) hs had no one to take care of for a long time. He has  no  “padrino” so maybe you can be his ninong  next year or in the  coming years  that you will take care of him.
“Then what do I say to the one I know who will say that I am bribing you, if  you were  in my shoes?  I stood up and walked away,” Aguirre recounted.
But, Aguirre said he cannot initiate charges against Sombrero based on that encounter.
“It could be interpreted in a way as perception.  Before you could be accused there should be an overt act of bribery.” the DoJ chief explained.
Aguirre, however, said in the case of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chair Andrea Domingo, the bribery case might stand.
Aguirre said Domingo told him about a bribe attempt by the camp of  Lam to allow Fontana to continue its online gaming operations while applying for a license.
Aguirre said Lam offered Domingo a one percent cut of his casino earnings but the Pagcor chief turned down the offer and instead told Lam  to pay the government’s 10 percent cut from his casino earnings and that he should first get a license before running online gaming operations in the country.
No whitewash on 1,000 Chinese illegal workers — BI chief
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Thursday promised a speedy resolution of the cases more than 1,000 Chinese nationals arrested last week in Clark, Pampanga in order to obviate any suspicions of irregularities.
With this, Commissioner Jaime Morente assured that there will be no whitewash in deportation proceedings against the foreigners who were arrested for allegedly working in the country illegally.
The BI chief gave the assurance following reports that bribes were being offered for the release of the Chinese nationals.
Last November 24, the foreigners were apprehended inside the Fontana Leisure Park and Casino Hotel by operatives from the BI’s fugitive search unit, National Bureau of Investigation and Philippine National Police.
“They will undergo deportation proceedings and their cases will be decided on the merits and the evidence to be presented,” Morente said.
He added that it will be the BI board of commissioners which he chairs that will hear and resolve the cases against the Chinese.
He said those found liable for violating immigration laws, particularly those who overstayed or violated the conditions of their visa, will be deported immediately.        With PNA