BEMEDALLED and highly respected, retired police intelligence director, Charles T. Calima, ended up as a “casualty” of the bribery scandal now plaguing the Bureau of Immigration (BI) along with his aide, retired police colonel, Edward Chan, after they were sacked on Tuesday by Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary, Vitaliano Aguirre.
Calima, the BI acting director for intelligence, was instrumental in documenting the payoff of P50 million in bribe money between BI assistant commissioners, Al Argosino and Michael Robles and, retired police colonel, Wally Sombero. The transaction happened last November 27 at the ‘City of Dreams’ casino in Parañaque City.
Argosino and Robles got their positions at the BI for being the fraternity brothers and classmates of Aguirre and President Rodrigo Duterte at the San Beda Law School.
The two allegedly demanded the money for the release of hundreds of illegal Chinese workers apprehended three days earlier by the BI inside the ‘Fontana Leisure Park’ in Clark, Pampanga, owned by businessman Jack Lam.
Lam then sought the help of Sombero who then tipped off Calima about the extortion attempt by the two ranking bureau officials.
The transaction was exposed by columnist Ramon Tulfo in his column last December 10 where Tulfo also revealed that Calima was “monitoring” the transaction.
Yesterday, bureau officials claimed they were under “strict order” not to comment on the firing of Calima. “Ang utos sa amin ay huwag mag-comment,” said BI spokesperson, Atty. Antonette Mangrobang, without saying where the order came from.
People’s Tonight tried, but failed, to contact Calima and BI commissioner Jaime Morente to get their reaction.
But other concerned BI officials and personnel who also declined to be named are wondering why Calima was also fired by Aguirre without hearing him out but finding the time to meet with his and Pres. Duterte’s “frat mates” on Tuesday, hours before Aguirre sent out a memorandum dismissing Calima and Chan.
The sources also wondered if the justice secretary even bothered to read Calima’s explanation and his actual role in the entrapment operation that Calima sent to Aguirre and Morente also on Tuesday.
Part of Calima’s explanation to Aguirre reads: “I am not the ‘bad guy’ in Ramon Tulfo’s article.
“I was engaged in a counter-intelligence operation to monitor a reported extortion attempt. I was not singling out anyone.
“It just so happened that the persons concerned turned out to be our two associate commissioners.”
The surprised removal of Calima and his aide by Aguirre, BI sources said, is sending the “wrong message” about the Duterte administration’s seriousness in fighting graft and corruption, which is among the campaign promises of Pres. Duterte.
“Kung pati mga gumagawa ng tama, aalisin sa puwesto, anong mensahe ang gustong iparating ni Sec. Aguirre at Pang. Duterte?
“Na hindi puwedeng ‘galawin’ ang kanilang mga kaklase at mga kaibigan kahit gumagawa ng katiwalian?” the sources asked.
Calima yesterday maintained his innocence on charges aired against him by two Bureau of Immigration assistant commissioners caught on video receiving P30 million from an emissary of Lam.
After learning about his termination by Secretary Aguirre, Calima said he texted the DOJ chief and told him he did not betray the trust that Aguirre and BI Commissioner Jaime Morente had given to him.
“In my short stint po under one of your attached agencies, I can assure you Sir that I never betrayed the trust you and my classmate, Commissioner Bob Morente, have bestowed upon me.
“My decision to join the Bureau was driven by my passion to continue serving our country particularly since I believe I can bring to the table my long and unblemished experience in fighting crime and corruption,” his text message said.
“I cannot just stand by and be a passive audience when there is so much to do para ma-implement ang campaign promise ng Pangulong Duterte. Sayang nga lang that I was prejudged and had no opportunity to present my side sa inyo. Pero nagpapasalamant naman po ako at na-mention ninyo naman sa media na I wanted to explain my side sa inyo and that I professed na wala akong kasalanan.
“Napakalaking bagay na po ito especially sa mga mahal ko sa buhay na naapektuhan ng mga napakaraming speculation sa media. Maraming salamat, Sir. I just have to continue to have faith in the Almighty and that at the end of the day, truth shall prevail and will set us free.
“Maraming salamat po. I will still be a loyal soldier of the Republic. Sana lang po ay hindi sisirain ng napakaraming allegations and speculations ang magandang pangalan na napundar ko sa 38 years ko na paninilbihan sa bansa natin at sa ating kababayan who deserve no less than the best from us, public servants,” Calima said.