SC greenlights transfer of Robles, Argosino, Sombero to Bilibid

The Supreme Court has given the go-signal for the transfer to the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City of two former Bureau of Immigration officers and an ex-policeman who were found guilty of plunder and graft by the Sandiganbayan in the P50-million Jack Lam bribery scandal and sentenced to 50 years in prison.

In an eight-page resolution, the court’s First Division denied the separate motions filed by former Bureau of Immigration deputy commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles and retired policeman Wenceslao “Wally” Sombero Jr. seeking the reversal of the Sandiganbayan’s decision issued on 9 July 2021 denying their plea for continued detention at the Metro Manila District Jail at Camp Bagong Diwa (MMDJ), Taguig City, pending the resolution of their appeals with finality.

The Sandiganbayan had ruled that Argosino, Robles and Sombero are national prisoners because their maximum prison terms consist of 40 years (plunder) and 10 years (graft). An order of commitment for the transfer of the three convicts was issued by the Sandiganbayan to the NBP in Muntinlupa.

The petitioners then asked for the issuance of a special order suspending their transfer to the NBP, invoking “humanitarian and compassionate considerations” in their appeal filed before the SC.

They cited the surge of the COVID-19 Delta variant as a reason, along with their health conditions that allegedly made them susceptible to the virus. The court should consider the COVID-19 pandemic as a special and compelling circumstance in granting their prayer to have their transfer to the NBP suspended, they said.

In his appeal, Sombrero said he is 65 years old and suffers from several ailments such as coronary artery disease, cardiac dysrhythmia, sick sinus syndrome, severe sleep apnea, exogenous obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Argosino claimed that he has hypertension and diabetes, while Robles said he is suffering from cardiac dysrhythmia hypertension and hyperthyroidism.

They asserted that the SC’s ruling in Enrile v. Sandiganbayan should be applied to their cases on humanitarian grounds.

The high court rejected this defense, however, and agreed with the Sandiganbayan that the three are considered national inmates under the Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013, as they were sentenced by the Sandiganbayan to prison terms exceeding three years.

“Being national prisoners, the Sandiganbayan was correct in ordering the transfer of accused-appellants from the MMDJ, a local jail, to the NBP in Muntinlupa City, which is the national penitentiary managed by the Bureau of Corrections,” the SC said.

The SC pointed out that, unlike in the Enrile case, the accused-appellants are not mere detainees asking to be released on bail pending trial.



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