By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
The Senate is set to look into the reported presence of alleged undocumented Chinese workers in Clark, Pampanga amid allegations of bribes being offered for the release of those who were nabbed last November 24 inside the Fontana Leisure Park and Casino Hotel.
Bureau of Immigration (BI) agents arrested 1,316 alleged illegal Chinese workers, the “biggest single arrest of illegal aliens” by the agency.
In Senate Resolution 242 filed by committee on labor, employment and human resources development chairman Joel Villanueva, the senator expressed alarm over the rising number of illegal foreign workers in the Philippines in manufacturing, construction, power grids and in the mines of Caraga region.
“These illegal foreign workers are displacing our Filipino workers. The DoLE (Department of Labor Employment) and should implement strong monitoring policies for migrant workers to control this influx,” he said.
Officials from the BI, DoLE, and Philippine National Police will be invited to attend the said public hearing on December 7.
“The huge number of illegal Chinese workers arrested in Clark signifies the growing bulk of undocumented workers across the country. This already calls for an immediate action by our government authorities as this might bring serious implications in our labor situation,” Villanueva stressed.
‘No bribe try’
Two days after the Chinese were rounded up, there were allegations of bribery supposedly to facilitate their release.
But businessman Jack Lam denied yesterday that he tried to bribe Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II over the issue of alleged illegal online gamblingin Pampanga that led to the arrest of the Chinese.
In an official statement, Lam’s camp, through lawyer Raymond Fortun, maintained that he is a legitimate businessman with proper legal authority to operate the Fontana Leisure Park and Casino.
According to Fortun, Lam has the necessary permits and licenses and has no reason to bribe anyone, much less the Justice secretary.
While denying the accusation, he admitted that Lam has indeed met with Aguirre at the Shangri-La Hotel last November 26 where he was introduced by retired Chief Supt. Wally Sombero, a resource person at the DoJ on small town lottery issues.
Aguirre has earlier said Sombero told him that Lam has long been looking for a “godfather” to protect his gambling business which he perceived as a bribe attempt.
But Aguirre said he will not pursue any legal action against the two since it would be “very hard” as “you cannot prosecute if only on the basis of that.”
Admitting that it could have been a mere perception on his part, he explained that “before you can be accused, there must be an overt act of bribery.”
At a media forum, Lam’s camp claimed that the meeting was in an act of good faith.
They cleared that since Lam is not well-versed in the English and Filipino language, he brought with him two interpreters to merely “inform the good secretary that he was engaged solely in legal activities in Fontana.”
“The meeting with the justice secretary lasted for only 5-10 minutes, and at no time did Mr. Lam have the opportunity to speak directly with Secretary Aguirre. Neither did the interpreter speak a word as Mr. Lam did not say anything.”
“Whatever Wally Sombero told the Secretary of Justice was a matter between the two of them. Mr. Lam has no reason to bribe anyone as his operations are legitimate.”
Fortun also explained that the case of 1,316 arrested foreign nationals was not in question of the company’s legality but of Immigration issues since Lam’s company has the necessary documents and license from the Clark Economic Zone that permits Fontana to operate online gaming.