FORMER police officer Wenceslao "Wally" Sombero, alleged associate of Chinese gaming tycoon Jack Lam, said the P50 million he handed to the two Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials was given as payoff.

"Mr. Chair, I would like to put into record that what happened in the City of Dreams between 11:00 ng gabi nung November 26 up to 6:30 a.m. of November 27, wala pong nangyaring (there was no) extortion-bribery doon," Sombero said, appearing for the first time in the Senate hearing.

It was earlier alleged that the P50 million he had given to BI commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles was intended for the release of more than half of the 1,316 Chinese nationals arrested at Lam's online gaming operations in Clark, Pampanga.

When asked to differentiate payoffs from bribery, Sombero said: "Mr. Chair, yung perang involved doon sa aking palagay, it was a business decision on the part of the Jack Lam group to agree on the amount."

Sombero added that the amount did not come from Lam himself but from Chinese online gaming providers in Fontana, the hotel where Lam's casino was situated.

"Narinig ko na hindi rin kay Jack Lam nanggaling ang pera. 'Yun po ay galing sa mga nag-release ng mga online gaming, service providers sa Fontana," he said.

"Kaya tumatawag sila sa Fontana para hingin ang bail, pressured na sila sa Chinese embassy. Dalaw nang dalaw ang consul kaya kailangan nilang mailabas yung more than 800 Chinese na may working visa," he said.

Sombero, however, claimed that it was true that the two commissioners tried to extort money from Lam.

In a meeting with the commissioners and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on November 26, he said Argosino asked him for P100 million.

"Pagbalik ko po, pagkahatid ko kay Secretary Aguirre, naghintay sa akin si Argosino sa labas. Ang sabi niya sakin may nag-ooffer, di naman tinanggap, marami po, pero dun po napunta sa P100 million," Sombero said.

Asked further when the extortion happened, he said it was at "6:00 a.m., November 26."

Sombero said Argosino asked for 100 million to which he replied, "Sasabihin ko [sa mga interpreters ni Jack Lam]."

Argosino and Robles in the earlier Senate hearing said Sombero offered them a P50 million bribe. They added that they accepted the money as "evidence" in the ongoing probe they are conducting against payoffs in the BI.

Sombero is the president of Asian Gaming Service Providers. (SunStar Philippines)

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