Justice secretary Leila de Lima’s June 6 report has identified Associated Commissioners Abdullah Mangontara and Gilbert Repizo as the ones responsible for the brouhaha now affecting the morale of members of the Bureau of Immigration. She has recommended that the two be placed under investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to ascertain who between the two Commissioners reportedly received payola money from Chinese gambling lord Wang Bo.
In yesterday’s hearing before the Congress, the justice secretary Leila de Lima once more reiterated her desire to conclude the probe and immediately deport Wang who has been in the country for 45 days already. De Leila already recommended last June 6 for the immediate deportation of Wang who now stays in the country without a legitimate passport. Under immigration rules, a foreigner who has no valid passport is considered an illegal alien and subject to summary deportation.
Yet it seems like Wang is to stay for much longer in the country pending results of the probe of Congress and that of the NBI, since de Lima herself ordered a probe of the alleged payoff made to Mangontara and Repizo.
Reports identified Associate Commissioners Mangontara and Repizo as the beneficiaries of an alleged 100 million peso payoff reportedly made by Wang thru his counsel, Atty. Dennis Manalo. During the Congressional probe, Wang denied the accusations. Atty. Manalo has likewise made a firm denial of the said payoff.
In De Lima’s report, it was said that Associate Commissioner Mangontara was the first one to call on NAIA 3 Immigration officials to inquire on the arrest of Wang last February 5. A certain Atty. Terry Pe was identified as the first counsel of Wang.
Pe allegedly called tabloid publisher Jerry Yap to help him intercede on behalf of Wang. Yap in turn, called up Mangontara.
Mangontara admitted before Congress calling up immigration officials at the airport to inquire about Wang’s status. After Pe, Wang hired Atty. Bantilan, a close associate of Mangontara. De Lima testified that it was Bantilan who concocted the bogus case of Wang in the Philippines. De Lima said there was no criminal case filed against Wang which, under Immigration rules, could qualify as reason for his continued stay in the Philippines.
When Bantilan’s close links with Mangontara were revealed before the Board of Commissioners, Bantilan asked that he be replaced by Atty. Dennis Manalo. It was Manalo who reportedly made deals with the two associate commissioners.
Manalo filed an appeal last April which helped prolong Wang’s stay in the Philippines. This appeal was made after the release of a March 5 deportation order signed by all members of the Board of Commissioners.
The Board assigned Repizo as the ponente of a resolution issued as answer to the Motion for Consideration filed by Manalo.
Reports say that between May 18 and 21, Manalo went to the office of Associate Commissioner Gilbert Repizo. Repizo denied before Congress that he met Manalo. Repizo said he was by then, in Boracay. His travel records however reflect that Repizo was in Boracay on May 22, a day after he submitted that controversial resolution which recommended for the reversal of the March 5 deportation order.
Sensing something amiss, BI Chief Siegfred Mison immediately consulted with the head of legal affairs of the bureau and elevated the case to the office of the justice secretary. The Chinese embassy likewise expressed its opposition to the release of Wang.
Five days later, the Justice secretary reversed the resolution penned by Repizo. The Board of Commissioners put out another resolution this time recommending for the affirmation of the previous March 5 deportation order. Repizo and Mangontara voted against deportation.
Shortly after May 26 when the voting ended, reports about an alleged payoff leaked to the media. Reports say Repizo reportedly facilitated for a payoff worth 400 million, 100 million pesos were given to several BI officials, while the rest were apportioned to some members of Congress, according to a Manila Standard report.
Several days later, Justice secretary De Lima described the report as “preposterous”.
The secretary met with her commissioners and initiated the probe.