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Ex-BI chief to appeal conviction on Indians

DAVAO CITY – Former Bureau of Immigration chief Zafiro Respicio said yesterday he would file a motion for reconsideration at the Sandiganbayan, which found him guilty of allowing 11 Indians facing drug charges to be deported instead of being prosecuted in 1994.

Respicio told a local television station here that he is innocent and will file an appeal with the graft court that convicted him of falsification of public documents and sentenced him to six to 12 years in prison.

He has until Oct. 30 to file the appeal on the ruling of the Fifth Division of the Sandiganbayan.

Respicio, who is recovering from a stroke and working part-time with a non-government organization here, denied that he knew anyone of the 11 Indians when he signed the deportation papers during his birthday party on Aug. 11, 1994.

The Indians left the country the next day, after Respicio signed the deportation order.

Respicio claimed he signed the order after then director Epimaco Velasco of the National Bureau of Investigation endorsed the deportation of the Indians, who were nabbed by NBI agents during a raid on an illegal drug laboratory on July 4, 1994 in Las Piñas.

The suspects were charged with violating Republic Act 6425, or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972.

The Indians were identified as Pramod Jogdeo, Shaik Easaf, Sunkavalivenkata Lakshimanaray, Augustine Rajesh, Nagayya Vanam, Mohammad Rafique, Kausar Ali, Nabi Gulam, Mengesh Jadhav, Laxman Kadam, and Cajetan Merwyn Mujares.

A month later, the suspects filed requests for self-deportation with the Bureau of Immigration, which Respicio and associate commissioners Bayani Subido Jr. and Manuel Rojas approved despite an ongoing preliminary investigation against them.

The Sandiganbayan convicted Respicio but Subido and Rojas were acquitted, ruling that "no conspiracy existed among the accused" and that the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the two officials beyond reasonable doubt.

The graft court also cleared former NBI deputy director Arturo Figueras, after he died while the case was still being heard.

Respicio claimed that Velasco sent a letter to Respicio requesting the deportation of the 11 Indians.

Sources told The STAR that former justice secretary Silvestre Bello III would help Respicio in the legal battle he is now facing.

"I understand that Bello already promised to help in his (Respicio’s) case," the source said.

The Sandiganbayan ruling also barred Respicio from holding any public office and he was also ordered to pay the fine of P5,000.

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