Trillanes: Aguirre knew of Lam’s illegal operations in Clark
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - January 30, 2017 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II knew of Jack Lam’s illegal gambling operations in Clark as early as 2013 when he was vice president and chief legal counsel of Clark Development Corp. (CDC) during the Aquino administration.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV made the allegation yesterday as the Senate Blue Ribbon committee is expected to resume tomorrow its hearing into the P50-million bribery scandal involving former officials of the Bureau of Immigration (BI), which is under Aguirre’s supervision as justice secretary.

Senators warned that Aguirre and BI Commissioner Jaime Morente were not yet off the hook even as former BI deputy commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles and former BI intelligence chief Charles Calima were fired from their posts after allegedly partaking of the P50-million bribe from Lam’s trusted aide, retired police general Wally Sombero.

The CDC manages the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga where Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino is located. Fontana housed Lam’s online gambling business before government agents raided it last Nov. 24, 2016 and rounded up 1,316 Chinese employees for allegedly working without permits.

During last week’s hearing, Aguirre mentioned no raid was conducted on Lam’s alleged illegal gambling operations as the CDC thought the operation legal because duly authorized by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).

“The illegal operation of Jack Lam’s casino has been going on for more than 10 years already. But since Aguirre was VP and chief legal counsel of the CDC from March 2013 to June 2016, then he surely knew about this operation,” Trillanes said.

“As CDC’s chief legal counsel, Aguirre should know and definitely knew that immigration laws were being violated by Jack Lam’s casino and that CEZA’s permits cannot be used in other free ports in the country. But still he allowed it to operate then,” he said.

“So, the P100-million question now is, ‘Is the shakedown Aguirre’s way of saying he is the new boss in town?’”

Trillanes stressed the possibility of Aguirre’s involvement after Argosino had testified that his former boss told him: “Kayo nang bahala diyan (you take care of that)” after their brief private meeting with Sombero and Lam at the Shangri-La Hotel in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig last Nov. 26.

Aguirre testified that during that meeting, Lam – through Sombero – repeatedly insinuated his willingness to give bribes in exchange for the release of 600 of the detained Chinese employees.

Trillanes noted that Aguirre asked Argosino, his fraternity brother, not Morente to the meeting.

“How did he (Aguirre) know the amount of the supposed bribe of P50 to P100 million as early as Dec. 1 when nobody supposedly told him about it?” the senator said, referring to the justice chief’s statement in a press conference.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee, said critics should allow the inquiry to take its course, otherwise they are just courting publicity to further their own agenda.

“All these people should wait until we finish the investigation otherwise they’re just trying to focus on issues to perpetrate their intramurals and giving publicity to issues that are not material to the inquiry,” Gordon said.

“Some people are making it a political vendetta, which will take the public’s focus on the facts and redirect it to their intramurals. This is a great disservice to the public,” he said.       

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