Sombero returns, clears DOJ chief

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HE’S BACK Wally Sombero gets mobbed by reporters upon his return to Manila on Tuesday. PHOTO BY RENE DILAN

JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd on Tuesday maintained his innocence in the bribery scandal that has engulfed the Bureau of Immigration (BI), deploring what he claimed was a concerted effort by his detractors to derail his confirmation.

Aguirre belied the accusations against him in a roundtable discussion with The Manila Times editorial team and said he did not need the testimony of retired police officer Wally Sombero for him to clear his name on the bribery-extortion scandal involving Macau-based gambling tycoon Jack Lam.

Sombero, who returned to Manila on Tuesday, absolved the Justice secretary from any involvement in the bribery.

“I want to put this on the record. I have no knowledge of any connection or links that the Secretary is involved with this scandal,” Sombero said shortly after arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.


Sombero, Lam’s alleged go-between, is set to testify before the Senate blue ribbon committee investigation on Thursday regarding his involvement in the bribery scandal.

Aguirre said three other persons linked to the scandal had cleared him from involvement.

“It’s ironic considering I’m the one who ordered the raid on Fontana Leisure Park owned by Jack Lam and the arrest of the illegal Chinese workers,” the Cabinet official pointed out.

Aguirre said his name was cleared by Sombero before the latter’s return to the country, and by former BI intelligence chief Charles Calima who was among those charged in connection with the scandal.

The Justice Secretary also noted that former BI associate commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles, who received the P48 million alleged bribe from Sombero, never implicated him.

“All four principal players, (retired) General Calima, the two commissioners, including Wally Sombero through text [message]during the Senate hearing absolved me of any connection or liability with respect to any money coming from Jack Lam,” Aguirre pointed out.

Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th questioned Aguirre’s actions during a Senate hearing, including the Justice chief’s decision to meet with Lam and Sombero inside Shangri-la Bonifacio Global City (BGC); his move to invite then BI deputy commissioner Al Argosino, his fraternity brother, to the meeting with Lam instead of BI Commissioner Jaime Morente, and Sombero giving P50 million to Argosino when he knew that Argosino did not have the authority to release the Chinese workers caught at Fontana in November 24.

Aguirre maintained he was not aware that Argosino and Robles had a meeting with Sombero at the City of Dreams on November 26 after the Shangri-La meeting, as well as the P50 million that exchanged hands.

State witness

Aguirre also said Sombero could be considered as a state witness in the case but it is up to the prosecutors or the Ombudsman to determine if the former police general was qualified.

However, if there are other people who can testify in the case, it is unlikely he will qualify as state witness. Sombero may be given a lighter penalty, depending on his testimony.

“Well I’m sure that if he is going to tell the truth, it could be considered as a mitigating circumstance,” Aguirre added.

Back in Manila

Sombero, who left the country for health reasons in January this year, arrived in Manila at 8:40 a.m.
“I was not in hiding,” he told reporters who mobbed him at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

He explained that he wanted to come home earlier but was stopped at the Vancouver airport due to “palpitations and shortness of breath.”

Sombero said that he was brought to the Richmonde General Hospital in Vancouver.

with BENJIE L. VERGARA

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3 Comments

  1. Sec. Aguirre is not off the hook yet, he doesn’t have any solid evidence to save his name, all are hear say, Sombero is not reliable witness. Even with the Senate hearing, this will all be hearsay, Their words against the opposition’s words. Even if this case reaches the corrupted court, the people will still be the loser. In the end we are all losers, because of the weak justice. The two commissioners where caught with their pants down, they are guilty, and the corruptor too. Let them pay for their crimes and we saved time and trouble. Stop fooling the people.

  2. Now would be the fine time for President Rodrigo Duterte to ask Vitaliano Aguirre for his resignation as Secretary of Justice, for his involvement in extortion. He should have met with Jack Lam in his office at Department of Justice, if it was an official meeting, instead of meeting him with Sombero privately at Shangrila BGC. Although Sombero have cleared him from any involvement nor knowledge of the transaction, why did he met privately with Jack Lam in the first place? A very shallow reasoning, isn’t it? There is a conflict of interest here and for sure, Vitaliano Aguirre was not representing the government interest during that private meeting in a hotel. PDU30 should let him go as well.

  3. matinong pinoy on

    Vitaliano Aguirre II is in the loop, and most likely, he is guilty as hell but he is using his lawyerly skills to maneuver and get out of trouble – imitating or copying De Lima’s style. He dictated the price or amount of money to Jack Lam and delegated Wally Sombero as the courier or act as in-between the transaction, during their meeting at Shangrila, BGC. It is also the right venue for Jack Lam to go, since Bureau of Immigration is under the Department of Justice. It is unfortunate for them because they got caught with their hands inside the cookie jar. Aguirre is trying to get out of the loop but his meeting with Sombero and Jack Lam at Shangrila, Bonifacio Global City says it all, to include the payout or transaction, when and where is going to happen, and the whole nine yards. This is one of the reason why our beloved country have not progressed up to this point. The President have punished “KOTONG” policemen, and how about KOTONG high ranking government officials?