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Opinion

Wrong place, wrong time?

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

Dismissed deputy immigration commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles and retired police colonel Wally Sombero have started serving their life sentences for plunder at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa.

The Supreme Court ordered their transfer to the national penitentiary from the Metro Manila District Jail in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig. Whatever perks Argosino, Robles and Sombero enjoyed at the district jail are now gone.

The three inmates are in the prime of their lives. They could have gone places if not for the P50-million plunder case for which they were convicted.

The P50 million was bribe money from Chinese gambling tycoon Jack Lam, in consideration for freeing over 1,300 undocumented Chinese workers who were at his casino in Clark, Pampanga in 2016.

I know about the case upside down and inside out. Sombero and Robles were in the wrong places at the wrong time.

Sombero was asked by Lam to negotiate with Argosino for the release of the undocumented Chinese workers.

Sombero acted as a middleman between Lam and Argosino. Being a former cop, Sombero ran errands for rich and prominent people who got into brushes with the law. In short, he acted as an attorney-in-fact or a “fixer” for them.

Sombero was waiting for his appointment as administrator of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority when Lam called him for help. Tycoon Lam is one of Sombero’s “clients.”

Robles, a promising government prosecutor before being appointed to the Bureau of Immigration, was not supposed to be at the City of Dreams hotel and casino where the payoff took place.

Robles was about to call it a night after an exhausting day at a firing range with his former fellow prosecutors when Argosino called him to come to the City of Dreams.

Argosino and Robles are “brods” at Lex Talionis, a student fraternity of San Beda College of Law.

Robles could not refuse Argosino, because he was beholden to the latter. Argosino recommended Robles as his deputy immigration commissioner.

Robles even brought his brother with him to the City of Dreams, thinking that Argosino would treat them to dinner or whatever.

*   *   *

I am not a lawyer and therefore not versed in the law, but methinks the justices of the Sandiganbayan could have been lenient with Robles and Sombero based on how the P50-million transaction unfolded.

For example, Sombero could have been convicted of the lesser offense of bribery. What Sombero did was to facilitate the transfer of bribe money from Lam to Argosino.

Robles, on the other hand, could have been meted out a lighter sentence because of the extenuating circumstances that I cited above.

Oh, well! Dura lex, sed lex (The law may be harsh, but it is the law).

*   *   *

The three Quezon City cops involved in what is now seen as a cover-up in a road accident involving their colleague, Lt. Col. Julio Mark Abong, should be dismissed from the service along with Abong and charged in court.

There should be no ifs and buts about it: Lt. Col. Alexander Barredo, commander of Station 3 in Kamias; traffic investigator Senior M/Sgt. Jose Soriano, Cpl. Juan Vicente and another cop in the police patrol car 290 were negligent of their duties as officers of the law.

They should be served the severest punishment of dismissal from the service and jail time, considering that a human life was involved.

The tricycle driver, Joel Laroa, died due to loss of blood. Had he been attended to immediately, he would still be alive today.

The World Citi Medical Center is just a few blocks away from the accident scene at the corner of Anonas and Pajo streets in Barangay Quirino.

*   *   *

Sari-sari store and carinderia owners are complaining that the imminent sugar shortage in the country might affect their soft drink sales.

That’s a good thing.

Soft drinks have loads of sugar. Lack of sugar will mean less people who will get sick of diabetes.

A soft drink brand has other uses aside from supposedly quenching one’s thirst.

My friend, who was addicted to a soft drink brand, stopped buying the soft drink.

He was shown that that kind of soft drink can clean up stains in the toilet bowl, remove rust and remove mold from grout in the restroom.

The acid in that soft drink is a cleaning agent.

*   *   *

Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian sees the further strengthening of relations between his country and the Philippines under the new administration.

Huang expressed this optimistic viewpoint during his courtesy call on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Malacañang.

The Chinese people have no evil designs on the country. They want to be friends with Filipinos.

They want our tropical fruits and fish on their tables. They want to visit the country because they have heard about the scenic places located in the Philippines and the hospitality of the Filipinos. They want to go into business partnerships with their counterparts in the country.

The Mainland Chinese, like the Japanese, are very hospitable people.

I’ve learned much about them and their diverse and interesting culture when I was appointed special envoy to China for public diplomacy during the administration of Digong Duterte.

The minor irritants we have with the Chinese can easily be resolved over dinner or at the conference table.

*   *   *

Joke! Joke! Joke!

A nice little old lady consulted her doctor as she was having a problem with passing gas that didn’t smell and was in silent mode.

“You wouldn’t know I am passing gas, because it doesn’t smell and it’s silent,” she told the doctor.

The doctor prescribed some pills and told her to come back.

The next week, the lady came back and said, “Doctor, I don’t know what you gave me, but now when I pass gas, although it’s still silent, it stinks terribly.”

“Good,” the doctor said, “now that we’ve cleared your sinuses, we’ll start to work on your hearing.”

AL ARGOSINO

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