Aguirre bares bribe offer for release of 1,316 Chinese
The Department of Justice said up to P200,000 was being offered for the release of each of the 1,316 Chinese nationals who were arrested last week for working illegally at Fontana Leisure Park and Casino operated by Macau-based gambling tycoon Jack Lam at Clark Freeport in Pampanga province.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, who personally took charge of the operation to arrest the illegal aliens, said he would not allow operators offering the bribe to undermine what he called a major blow against businessmen, who use illegal aliens for local operations.
The revelation came as the Bureau of Immigration (BI) was readying deportation proceedings against the Chinese, who were found to have violated immigration laws, including overstaying and violating conditions of their visas.
“The 1,318 Chinese will be charged with overstaying, working violation of the limitations and conditions of their visa, and engaging in an unlicensed online gaming business,” said BI spokesperson Tonette Mangrobang.
In a statement, Aguirre said he had been told that there had been efforts to offer as high as P200,000 in exchange for the release of each of those apprehended.
“But we will not be deterred. We will be uncompromising in our fight against crime and corruption,” he said.
The secretary expected more illegal workers to be arrested after the court issued a search warrant to break open locked facilities in the casino’s building at Clark Freeport where other Chinese nationals were kept from police operatives who conducted the raid on Nov. 24.
Message to law breakers
“We are sending a message to all who break any of our laws. Break it and we will go after you,” Aguirre said.
Online gaming is strictly regulated in the country with only state-owned Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp. and Cagayan Economic Zone Authority authorized to grant licenses.
Operators are also barred from catering to local clients. The biggest players in online gaming are from China.
The Chinese arrested in Clark were reportedly running Jack Lam’s online gambling operations that catered mostly to high rollers from mainland China. Lam’s casino license is only for on-site games.
Aside from Fontana, the casino at Fort Ilocandia in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte province, is also operated by Lam.
It was Aguirre who drafted “Oplan Fountain,” which included the combined BI and NBI forces.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana provided the logistical support and Philippine National Police Director General Ronald dela Rosa deployed a PNP special action force contingent during the raid.
Single biggest arrest
The raid led to the single biggest arrest of suspected illegal aliens.
Justice Undersecretary Erickson Balmes said some of the Chinese nationals working in Fontana were minors and had been released from custody.
Earlier, the BI said 99 of the foreigners were found to have overstayed in the country.
Mangrobang said some of the arrested Chinese entered the Philippines as tourists. “It appears that they legally entered the country but failed to legalize their stay here. They entered as tourists,” said the BI spokesperson.
The BI Board of Commissioners is considering on issuing a summary deportation order on the foreigners.
The rest of those who are not considered overstaying aliens will undergo regular deportation proceedings, during which they will be allowed to present their defense.
Subscribe to our global nation newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.