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Sombero confirms P50-M extortion

Retired police general Wenceslao “Wally” Sombero appeared yesterday at Senate Committee on Blue Ribbon hearing and confirmed the involvement of Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials in the “extortion and pay-off” for the release of Chinese employees of gambling mogul Jack Lam, who were arrested last year.

He gave an affirmative response when he was asked separately by Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Joel Villanueva during the fourth hearing of the Senate panel on the P50-million bribery scandal involving BI.

“May extortion po (There was extortion),” he said during the fourth hearing of the Blue Ribbon Committee on the P50-million bribery scandal involving the BI.

Sombero said the extortion happened on Nov. 26, while “the pay-off” transpired on Nov. 27.

He admitted serving a middleman and handed the P50 million to sacked Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles, and even admitted receiving P10 million from Lam’s camp. He denied getting P2 million from the P50 million given to the BI officials.

“Hindi po ako ang nagbigay ng pera pero ako po ang nag-abot,” Sombero said. Sombero’s response irked Blue Ribbon panel chairman Senator Richard Gordon.

“Don’t be a smart aleck, don’t give us the runaround,” Gordon said chiding Sombero said.

Sombero told the panel since he did not want to get involved in the withdrawal of money, he designated a certain “Martin” and “Garfield” to do it for him.

He said it took sometime before Lam’s “business partners” decided to produce the P100 million being asked by the BI officials.

Alexander “Alex” Yu, one of Lam’s interpreters said they got the money from Lam’s business associates.

“Hiniram lang namin sa business partners ni Jack Lam,” he said.

In his opening statement, Sombero said he appeared the hearing “to save” the online gaming service industry in the country, which was “being sabotaged and derailed by relentless raids conducted by some misguided law enforcement officers with some misguided judges.”

“Until the occurrence of the unfortunate alleged extortion incident that transpired between November and December 1, I was trying to leave a legacy for my country,” he said.

“Unfortunately, my painstaking efforts to save the industry engulfed me in a controversy that has likewise pushed the online gaming service industry in the brink of extinction,” Sombero, who served at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) for 27 years said. (Charissa M. Luci)