Wang Bo addresses bribery allegations in House probe

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — For the first time, Chinese national and international fugitive Wang Bo made a public appearance at the House of Representatives on Tuesday (June 16) after being apprehended for illegal gambling cases and a cancelled passport.

But Wang Bo didn't face the lawmakers to defend himself — he appeared before Congress to answer the allegations being thrown at members of the House.

In a series of articles, the Manila Standard Today, a national broadsheet, reported that Wang allegedly paid the Bureau of Immigration (BI) P100 million to secure the cancellation of his deportation orders.

Moreover, Wang reportedly gave lawmakers P440 million to ensure the immediate passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

But Wang denied the allegations. He also denied communicating with officials or officials' representatives regarding bribery.

A ploy to delay deportation?

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, meanwhile, deemed the allegations preposterous and said that they are in a hurry to deport Wang.

De Lima added that she saw glaring pieces of evidence of efforts to delay Wang's deportation.

According to De Lima, on the day Wang arrived in the Philippines, a P3-million estafa case was filed against him by a certain Jose Chua — which was BI's basis in cancelling his deportation.

Related: Who is Wang Bo?

"What is so suspicious to me is that the lawyer who represented Chua is the very lawyer who represented Wang Bo in the proceedings," De Lima said.

De Lima explained that the allegations of bribery involving Immigration officials and lawmakers made the Department of Justice (DOJ) hold the execution of the deportation order.

"You see on account of the affirmance of summary deportation order, it should be immediately executory. But I had to cancel this because of serious allegations," she said.

Broadsheet stands by reports, Congress cries contempt

Journalists of the Standard Today, on the other hand, made it clear that they had concrete evidence to support their stories and that they stand by what they wrote.

Despite this, members of the House panel were not successful in making the journalists reveal their sources.

When asked to divulge details on their sources, Christine Herrera, the paper's senior political reporter, answered: "I’m sorry, but if I reveal my sources, nobody would trust me and the Standard anymore."

This angered the lawmakers and made them move to cite her in contempt.

But the lawmakers were quick to clear that their proposal was not meant to curtail journalists' freedom of expression and their right to gather information, nor was it meant to bully journalists in revealing their sources.

"This is not to curtail any right of our journalists. But these are serious allegations, paano naman kami?" said Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., who expressed concern over the serious allegations made against him and his fellow lawmakers.

Representatives said they would continue digging deeper as to who among their colleagues accepted bribe money, should the allegations be proven true.

And although the implementation of the motion to cite Herrera in contempt was delayed until the next hearing, the lawmakers said it would only be lifted if Herrera would disclose her sources.