Sandiganbayan junks ex-BI execs’ bid to dismiss criminal raps

MANILA — For lack of merit, the Sandiganbayan has junked the appeal of two former executives of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) seeking to dismiss the criminal cases filed against them over the alleged PHP50-million bribery case in 2016.

The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division, in a resolution dated Jan. 7, 2019, denied the respective motions for reconsideration filed by former BI Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles.

“According to the Supreme Court, the issue was not whether or not therein accused was under risk of double jeopardy, but whether or not the error of filing two separate informations for the same offense was a reversible error,” the anti-graft court said in its ruling.

“In fact, accused Argosino even cites the consolidation of the cases as the very reason why the accused cannot raise the defense of double jeopardy. Hence, the alleged error in filing multiple information for the same offense has been addressed,” it added.

Aside from direct bribery charges, Argosino and Robles are also facing plunder, a non-bailable offense; graft, and violation of Presidential Decree No. 46, which prohibits public officials from receiving gifts from private individuals, in connection with the alleged PHP50-million bribe in exchange for the release of detained Chinese workers of a casino in Clark, Pampanga.

In their motions, the former BI officials argued that the offenses charged in the present cases are absorbed in, and are included in the plunder case, and therefore, only an information for plunder should have been filed.

Argosino added that a prior conviction or acquittal is not indispensable to the invocation of double jeopardy.

In its opposition, the prosecution argued that the accused failed to prove that all requisites of double jeopardy are present.

It noted that Argosino and Roble’s motions were anchored on the contention that the crimes charged in the information in the cases are absorbed in plunder.

“This is not a ground for the filing of a motion to quash after they have entered their plea,” the prosecution said.

“The crimes charged in the present cases are not absorbed in plunder. The principles of complex crime proper or ‘delitocomplejo’, and continuing crime or ‘delitocontinuado’ are not applicable in the present cases,” it added. (PNA)