MANILA - Wally Sombero, a representative of gambling tycoon Jack Lam, insisted Wednesday that he gave P50 million to 2 immigration officers because they demanded the amount, not because he bribed them.
He also said the two officials asked for another P100 million, which Lam's backers refused to give.
Sacked Bureau of Immigration Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles received the P50 million from Sombero at a casino mall in Parañaque City last November 27, during negotiations for the release of over 1,300 undocumented workers arrested in Lam's casino in Pampanga.
At a Senate inquiry on Tuesday, Argosino and Robles reiterated that they accepted the money as part of an investigation against Lam, and that Sombero badgered them to accept the paper bags containing the cash.
But in an interview with radio DZMM, Sombero insisted that the whole transaction was the handiwork of the 2 officers, whom he said repeatedly demanded the amount from Lam.
"Hindi po mangyayari iyun kung hindi nila hiningi. Ako naman po ay ipinapasa ko lang ang impormasyon. Business decision po ang sa palagay ko na dahilan kung bakit napilitan ang interpreters [ni Lam] na ibigay," he said.
(That would not have happened if they did not ask for it. I was only passing the information. I think it was a business decision why Lam's interpreters decided to give the money.)
Sombero also confirmed that Argosino and Robles were the ones caught on CCTV carrying the bags of money.
"Iyun pong nauunang dalawa ay si Deputy Commissioner Al at Deputy Commissioner Mike. Iyun pong nakasunod po na naka-puti na may 2 bag, iyun po ang kapatid ni Mike. Iyung isa naman po ay kasama ko na tinawag ko para tumulong," Sombero said.
(Two of the men are deputy commissioners Al and Mike. The one behind them wearing white and holding the 2 bags is Mike's brother. The other one is my assistant whom I called to help carry the bags. )
He added that Argosino and Robles tried but failed to extort an additional P100 million from Lam after their first meeting. He said the Macau-based businessman's group could not afford the demand.
"Sa sobrang laki, nagkaisa ang grupo na 'wag nang ituloy," Sombero said.
(The demand was too high, and the group agreed not to give it.)
Sombero, who is currently in Singapore, said he failed to attend the Tuesday's hearing because of his poor health and the unabated threats on his life.
The former policeman said he sought protective custody from the National Bureau of Investigation due to the death threats, but he had to go overseas after suffering a "mild heart complication."
Sombero said he is now recuperating and trying to book a flight back to Manila in time for the next hearing set on February 9.
"Napakaraming banta sa aking buhay at sa aking pamilya, kaya po ako'y nagpapagaling ng aking kalusugan," he said. "Maaari pong sa pangatlong hearing makarating ako... Pinipiklit ko pong magpa-booking [ng flight]. Protection lang po ang hinihingi ko."
(There are so many threats on my life and my family, so I'm trying to improve my health. I may be able to attend the third hearing. I'm trying to book a flight. Protection is all I ask for.)
Senator Richard Gordon, who leads the investigation, has warned that Sombero will be cited for contempt if he skips the next hearing.
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