COMMENTARY: Corruption Case Where Everybody Wins


If there is one case of government corruption, which put the Philippines in an ‘advantageous’ position, it is this 50 million extortion of the Commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) on Jack Lam, a gambling tycoon. This was a breath of fresh air. In most corruption cases, history tells us that the government has always been on the losing end.

Duterte ordered all the gambling businesses of Jack Lam in the Philippines to be sequestered. The Bureau of Immigration (BI) Associate Immigration Commissioners, Al Argosino and Mike Robles and the Chief of the BI’s Intelligence Unit, Charles Calima, personages involve in the BI’s bribery scandal, were all sacked.

Wally Sombero, a retired police senior superintendent, the fixer, the go- between, the central figure in this BI’s extortion caper, together with the other characters involved the BI’s bribery scandal are in the lookout bulletin, in case they flee when the formal investigation rolls in.

The 30 million, remains of the 50 million that changed hands, are now inthe  custody of the government. Possibly it would stay as government assets as part of the sequestration of Lam’s property.

Some enterprising new appointees in government agencies who always look for a quick windfall and have this passion for testing Duterte’s resolve – to check if he’s not different from his predecessors, try to plot money-making schemes.

The extortion of Jack Lam is one. Lam, most likely, has his online gaming businesses dodged paying taxes and employing illegal workers because some government regulators were on his payroll.

These enterprising appointees snoop around and saw the chance. They raided Lam’s online gambling casinos in Fontana Pampanga and rounded up 1,315 illegal workers.

The bribery engine hummed up. Lam would have to find his new point man in the Duterte administration to get his illegal workers out of detention and maintain his gambling business.  Wally Sombero, a chummy pal of Charles Calima, the BI Intelligence Chief, one of the designers, maybe, of the extortion schemes came into the picture.

Under Lam’s instructions, Wally Sombero negotiated with Argosino and Robles, the BI Commissioners. 50 million was what they agreed upon.

The money was handed to the two Commissioners. They probably thought that was so easy.  They became greedy and wanted 100 million more.

Jack Lam didn’t want to pay more. Wally Sombero has thought maybe he should approach someone higher from the two Commissioners. He could have thought of the Secretary of Justice.

Under the pretext of bringing up the problems of the illegal workers detained, Sombero convinced the Secretary to meet with them including Lam, but with their proposal written.

Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre sniffed something funny with their proposals and left. Sombero chased the Secretary and told him, to this effect, nobody takes care now of Lam, maybe he could be Lam’s “godfather”, to which Aguirre replied, “don’t corrupt my people”.

When Duterte ordered the arrest of Jack Lam, two warring camps emerged. The two Commissioners, Argosino and Robles, and the two Generals Sombero and Calima, each camp played the “entrapment” game. “Who’s entrapping who?” satisfying the nosy media.

Nobody knows. But this could be a charade or a show. The 20 million spirited away from the 50 million. This could have been shared by the four of the participants of the extortion caper.

The government wins, the perceived extortionist wins, the schemers win. Everybody wins.