MANILA - Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II will not pursue any legal action against retired Chief Superintendent Wally Sombero and gaming tycoon Jack Lam for allegedly "attempting to bribe" the justice chief in a meeting at a hotel in Bonifacio Global City last Saturday.
Aguirre said Lam, through Sombero, requested the meeting to discuss custodial arrangements for some 1,316 Chinese nationals arrested last Thursday for illegally working at Lam's Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Pampanga.
Sombero has served as resource person at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on small town lottery (STL) issues.
Though he believes Sombero made a bribe try for telling him Lam is in need of a "godfather" (ninong) and asked if he could serve as that godfather to Lam, Aguirre said filing charges against Sombero would just go down the drain without any concrete evidence.
"It's very hard nga. You cannot prosecute if only on the basis of that. Mahirap. Perception ko lang yun eh. Before you can be accused, there must be an overt act of bribery,” Aguirre said.
"Patikim pa lang yun; hindi pa maaaring overt yun.”
He also clarified that no money or gift was mentioned in exchange for the request.
FONTANA POSSIBLY LIABLE
Aguirre clarified that Lam is not the employer of the arrested Chinese nationals since the operator of the illegal online gaming operations is only renting a portion of his Fontana property.
Asked if it is possible that the employer may just be a dummy of Lam, Aguirre answered in the affirmative, but stressed that he has no basis to conclusively say so.
He, however, pointed out that Fontana should be investigated by the appropriate government agencies for possible violations of its franchise to operate, for allowing illegal online gambling operations in its property.
The justice chief also ordered an investigation into the reported "escape" of some 70 of the arrested Chinese nationals under immigration custody, and believes some immigration personnel were in cahoots with the "escapees." He suspects a syndicate was behind the "escape."
To date, only 26 of the escapees remain unaccounted for.
"Why should they escape? Ang suhulan, narinig ko, sa P100,000 nagsimula. Actually, karamihan sa sindikato nasa BI (Bureau of Immigration). Pinaiimbestigahan ko and I'm sure heads will roll," he said.
Asked why he agreed to meet with Lam considering that the latter's resort is in hot water for Thursday's arrests and may also face
possible prosecution, Aguirre said he made a "call" on the basis of wanting to iron out the detention arrangements for the arrested Chinese nationals.
"That's my call. I could not be bribed kaya hindi ako natatakot saan man kami magkita. The reason why dun ko dinala kasi meron kaming awarding ceremony kay President Duterte,” he said.
"At that time, thousands of Bedans saw us.”
The San Beda College of Law held a grand alumni homecoming at the hotel where Aguirre met Lam and company.