Pacquiao admits Wally Sombero is longtime friend
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Manny Pacquiao admitted that former police officer Wally Sombero, the alleged middleman of Chinese gambling tycoon Jack Lam, is his longtime friend.
The senator and boxing legend also said he met Lam once in the past.
Reporters asked Pacquiao about Sombero after they got word that the retired cop was planning to meet with the senator.
Pacquiao has never publicly declared his ties with Sombero in any hearings on the immigration scandal, but said he informed Senator Richard Gordon, chairperson of the Senate committee on justice, about it.
Pacquiao said he and Sombero have been talking even before the latter arrived in the country on Tuesday, February 14. Sombero was asking his senator-friend for protection.
"Nagko-kontakan naman kaming dalawa. Nag-text siya sa akin. Nagpapatulong bumalik dito at 'di siya gagalawin, na walang mangyari sa kanya. Sabi ko, umuwi ka rito, wala namang gagalaw sa 'yo," said Pacquiao, recalling his conversation with Sombero who was still abroad then.
(We were contacting each other. He texted me, asking for help on how to get back to the country without getting harmed. I told him, he should go home because no one will touch him.)
Pacquiao said he met Sombero at least a decade ago when he was still playing poker.
"Nakilala ko si Sombero matagal na panahon. Naging magkaibigan kami, noon pa lang. Barkada kami, naglalaro kami ng poker dati noong nagsusugal pa 'ko. Matagal na panahon, that was 8 years, 9 years ago," the senator said.
(I met Sombero a long time ago. We became friends. We belonged to the same group, we played poker when I was still gambling. That was a long time ago, that was 8 years, 9 years ago.)
It was Sombero who allegedly tried to bribe former Bureau of Immigration commissioners Michael Robles and Al Argosino in exchange for the release of illegal Chinese workers caught at Lam's Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Pampanga.
Asked about the character of Sombero, Pacquiao said: "Isang pulis naman 'yan, awardee na pulis. Maraming achievement sa buhay niya at nag-retire na. Ano naman 'yan, mabait naman 'yan na kaibigan." (He's a policeman who received awards and had many achievements. But he's retired now. He's a good friend.)
Pacquiao met Lam
Pacquiao also admitted meeting Lam but did not say when. He, however, said it was just a casual meeting at Lam's golf course. It was, however, unclear if it was at Fontana.
"Casual lang. Hindi ko matandaan eh pero ininvite ako once sa Pampanga, 'yung golf course nila na mag-opening ako ng isang tournament. Nagkita-kita lahat dun 'yung ano at na-meet ko yata doon si Jack Lam," said Pacquiao.
(It was just casual. I cannot remember but they once invited me to open a tournament at their golf course in Pampanga. I think I met Jack Lam there.)
Asked by reporters what Sombero told him during their phone calls, Pacquiao said the former only told him that he will "tell the truth" in the hearings.
Sombero maintained he is the "key" to the controversy.
"Briefly may nakuwento siya konti, about do'n sa nanghihingi ng pera, tumanggap ng pera na dating commissioners," he said. (Briefly, he talked about the people asking for and receiving money, the former commissioners.)
"[Sabi niya], siya ang susi para maliwanagan ang lahat," Pacquiao added. (He said he is the key to clarifying everything [about the scandal].)
Pacquiao, citing his friend, claimed Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II is not involved in the bribery scam – contrary to some senators' views. (READ: Senate BI bribery probe: 3 hard questions for Aguirre)
Aguirre had met with Sombero and Lam, with his two interpreters, in a private hotel room in Taguig. Shortly after, Aguirre asked Argosino, his fraternity brother, to meet with Sombero. The supposed P50-million bribery incident was caught on camera in a hotel in Parañaque. – Rappler.com