JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to retain in his post Immigration chief Jaime Morente, even amid his alleged involvement in the P50-million bribe try by gaming tycoon Jack Lam.

“We just ushered in the new year. This gives us new opportunities to work together for a better Bureau of Immigration (BI),” Aguirre said on Monday, after learning about the retention of retired police general Morente as the bureau's chief.

Amid his earlier statement that the BI needs a "massive overhaul," Aguirre reiterated that he can work with Morente for the betterment of the DOJ.

"I can work with anyone who believes and supports our reform oriented agenda in the DOJ (Department of Justice). Commissioner Morente has signified his full cooperation and support of President Duterte’s mandate to my office to wage a war on corruption," he said.

Aguirre added that their goal this year is to rid corruption in their ranks: "A better BI, a more corruption resistant Bureau will be our common objective."

Last December, Aguirre ordered Morente to turn over the remaining P20-million alleged extortion money from Lam to the DOJ, following his admission that he authorized former BI acting Intelligence chief Charles Calima to conduct a counter-intelligence operation on the alleged payoffs within the BI.

Former Immigration Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles – the two other commissioners who were also involved in the bribe try – a week before Aguirre's order already turned over to the DOJ P30 million.

According to the two, the money they received as part of their clandestine operations against BI officials accepting payoffs amounts to P50 million. P18 million of the money according to them went to Calima while the P2 million was pocket by Lam's associate, retired police official Wally Sombrero.

Aguirre had also asked the BI chief to submit copies of Calima's reports relative to his supposed counter-intelligence operations as well as the actions he took after receiving the reports.

But Morente failed to follow these directives. In reply to Aguirre's order, he said he can no longer order Calima to turn over the money to the DOJ as he no longer works in the bureau.

Calima was terminated by Aguirre, along with BI Technical Assistant for Intelligence, Police Supt. Edward Chan on December 14. Argosino and Robles were also dismissed the following week after Duterte acted on Aguirre's recommendation to terminate his appointees, who were also his fraternity brothers at the Lex Talionis Fraternitas.

The anomaly stemmed from the arrest of 1,316 undocumented Chinese nationals at Lam's online gaming operations in Fontana. (Sunnex)