DESPITE P50-M ‘PAYOFF’
    Chinese still holed up at Fontana

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    CLARK FREEPORT — If the P50-million alleged payoff last Nov. 27 was for the freedom of some 600 undocumented Chinese nabbed for illegal online gambling at the Fontana Leisure Park here, how come they remained detained eight days later at the Fontana convention center and had to pay bail starting only last Dec. 5?

    The angle has baffled the Bureau of Immigration (BI) here amid allegations of Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles that they were framed in an entrapment they had planned that went awry.

    The two denied allegations that they accepted P50 million in payoff s from Chinese online gambling operator Jack Lam in exchange for the release of some 600 out of 1,316 detained Chinese casino workers who lacked proper visas.

    The payoff was caught on video in a hotel in Paranaque City last Nov. 27. The two said they were entrapping Lam, but the plan backfired when they were caught holding the bags containing P50 million in cash. The other day, they turned over P30 million of the P50 million to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II ostensibly for safekeeping.

    They said P2 million of the P50 million was left with former police official Wally Sombero, who acted as middleman, and P18 million was allegedly given to BI Intelligence Division chief Charles Calima Jr.

    Fontana owner Jack Lam’s representative Wally Sombero was reported to have laughed off the claim of Argosino and Robles, intimating it was a case of extortion.

    Clark BI one-stopshop chief Karen Gandarma cited reports that almost all of some 600 undocumented Chinese have already settled bail reportedly costing over P50,000 each. She said they paid bail last Dec. 5 and 6 at a temporary office of BI Alien Registration Division (ARD).

    “I set up temporary office for ARD here in my office and they also used our biometrics for the bail process,” Gandarma said.

    “That’s the only participation of my office in the current Fontana controversy,” she added.

    Gandarma said the rest of the arrested Chinese had proper working visas based on the scrutiny of the Clark Development Corp. (CDC) which manages this freeport and the Department of Labor and Emloyment.

    She said that the bailed Chinese are barred from leaving the country until they have been cleared by the BI. On the other hand, the other Chinese nationals face downgrading of their visas from working to tourist as they no longer have work at Fontana which was ordered shot down by CDC.

    Pres. Duterte had ordered the arrest of Lam, who had fl ed to Macau, on charges of bribery and economic sabotage, but later said Lam could return and resume business after complying with some conditions.

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