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How I got embroiled in P50-M scandal

/ 02:03 AM February 11, 2017

Wally Sombero, the principal figure in the P50-million bribery scandal involving two immigration associate commissioners, is coming home on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

Sombero said: “I will definitely attend the blue ribbon committee hearing on Feb. 16.”

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The briber-giver in the biggest corruption scandal to hit the Duterte administration informed me about his intention to return in a call he made yesterday from British Columbia in Canada.

Wally, in a text message earlier yesterday, said: “For doing the right thing…supporting the ‘zero tolerance of corruption’ of (President Digong), I was ordered arrested by Senator Gordon.”

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Before I turned him over to the National Bureau of Investigation last Dec. 9, I had a long talk with Sombero at my “Isumbong Mo Kay Tulfo” office.

Wally had asked me to request the NBI to place him under protective custody after Philippine National Police chief, Director General Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, ordered him arrested for bribing government officials.

Wally told me he wanted to help the government by exposing two top immigration officials who demanded bribe money from illegal online gaming operator Jack Lam through him.

The story piqued my interest because it was what we journalists call a “scoop.”

But I told Wally as a friend about the repercussions his revelation would make.

When Wally was already secured at the NBI headquarters, I told him that even if the bribery was recorded on security cameras at City of Dreams, it would be better if he had a witness.

He said Charles Calima, the then chief of intelligence of the Bureau of Immigration, was aware of the incident as he asked him to monitor the transaction.

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Dec. 9, 2016, was a Friday and I was trying to catch a deadline for my column which would appear on Dec. 10, a Saturday.

I called Calima to congratulate him for witnessing the first and biggest scandal in the Duterte administration and to verify Wally’s story.

I called Calima again to ask why he didn’t arrest the two immigration commissioners after Wally handed them the P50 million.

I didn’t know that my second conversation with Calima was on speaker phone, and Immigration Commissioner Morente, and then Associate Commissioners Al Argosino and Mike Robles were listening in.

I asked Wally not to tell the story to another reporter before Dec. 10 as I wanted to break the news to the public first.

When I informed Justice Secretary Vit Aguirre that Wally was at the NBI and told him why, he said he would go visit him that afternoon.

I made Aguirre promise not to tell the media about Wally’s revelation so my story the following day would be a scoop.

The rest is history.

As Wally was telling me about the bribery scandal, I predicted that one of the repercussions would be a Senate hearing where he would be called to testify.

I said that many personalities would be called to the hearing.

But I wasn’t able to predict that I, too, would be called to the Senate hearing.

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TAGS: Al Argonsino, Bureau of Immigrations, Charles Calima, Inquirer column, Inquirer columnist, Jack Lam bribery attempt, Mike Robles, National Bureau of Investigation, NBI, On Target, Ramon Tulfo, Rodrigo Duterte, Wally Sombero, Wenceslao Sombero
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