MANILA - Wally Sombero, a retired police general and resource person of the Department of Justice, admitted Monday asking Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to act as "ninong" to gambling tycoon Jack Lam but denied that he offered a bribe to the justice chief in behalf of the tycoon.
Sombero also said he does not know Lam personally but was only set to meet Aguirre last November 26 to discuss how to help more than a thousand Chinese workers who were arrested at Fontana Leisure Park and Casino, owned by Lam, for their alleged role in illegal gambling operations.
"Hindi ho kami magkakilala ni Jack Lam...Sumama kasi si Jack Lam dun sa meeting. Dapat kami-kami lang. Siya kasi ang nangangalaga dun sa mga umuupa doon...Kaya nabuo ang meeting na yun ay nanghingi si Jack Lam na sumama siya, through the interpreters,"he said in a DZMM interview.
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the arrest of Jack Lam and the closure of the Fontana casino over the alleged bribe offer of Lam through Sombero.
Speaking to radio DZMM, Sombero said he sent a text message to Aguirre asking if he could help in the case of the 1,316 Chinese workers who were arrested for allegedly working without visas inside Fontana.
He pointed out that as gaming consultant and resource person of the DOJ, he had already briefed Aguirre about a possible P500 billion revenue for online gaming in Asia alone.
"Dahil nga po sa advocacy natin na makatulong sa bansa in terms of revenue nitong mga IT-BPO na ito ay sinubukan ko...I asked for his recommendation...Nagpaalam po ako," he said.
Sombero said he made the offer so that the Chinese workers could work in the Philippines legally without harassment.
He said the justice chief told him to talk to Immigration Deputy Commissioner Al Argosino since most of the people who were arrested were facing immigration cases for working without visas.
The former police general admitted using the word "ninong" during the meeting with Aguirre and Lam but denied that it was meant as a bribe offer to the justice chief since he did not know Lam personally.
He said that in his own experience as gaming consultant, many workers in this sector are being harassed for suspicion of engaging in online gambling when they can get licenses legally from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.
"Ang ibig sabihin po kasi ng ninong, second father. Madalas kasi maharass ang industriya. Dalawang taon na ako sa organisasyon, Naghahanap po tayo ng ano [ninong] kasi madalas po ma-harass ang industriya," he said.
He also noted that at least 800 of the 1,300 workers arrested in Fontana had working visas. He added that he is not against the arrest since many of those workers did not have visas.
During the interview, Sombero repeatedly denied knowing Lam, saying the tycoon is engaged in casinos while he works in the IT-BPO sector.
He also denied any knowledge of an alleged P17 million bribe offered to immigration officials to release the Chinese workers who were arrested in Fontana.
He also said Lam applied for a Philippine Online Gaming Operation license with PAGCOR but that he had yet get the license.