MANILA –Less than a decade ago, boxer-senator Manny Pacquiao used played poker with retired police Senior Supt. Wally Sombero, who is also alleged as middleman of Macau-based gambling tycoon Jack Lam.
Pacquiao on Tuesday confirmed to reporters that he is indeed a longtime friend of Sombero, after the latter claimed so upon his arrival in Manila from Vancouver the same day.
“I met him (Sombero) a long time ago. We became friends. We were in the same barkada (circle of friends). We would play poker when I was still gambling. That was a long time ago –eight or nine years ago,” Pacquiao said.
Pacquiao has long quit gambling before entering politics.
He also admitted that Sombero would contact him while he was abroad telling him that he feared his return to Manila and at the same time asked for help.
“We contacted each other. He texted me. He’s asking help to be brought back here without being harmed, that nothing would happen to him. I told him, ‘come home, nobody will harm you here,’” he added.
The neophyte senator, meanwhile, assured that Sombero promised to tell the truth when he faces the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee during its probe into the PHP50 million bribery scandal involving Immigration officials on February 16.
The boxer-senator has never publicly mentioned being friends with Sombero during senate hearings but claimed he told Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, about it.
Aside from being friends with Sombero, Pacquiao also disclosed that he met Lam himself in a golf tournament in Pampanga.
He cannot recall if the golf course he was invited to was the controversial Fontana Leisure Parks and Casino in Clark, Pampanga owned by Lam which employed over 1,000 illegal Chinese workers.
According to ex-BI associate commissioners and lawyers Al Argosino and Michael Robles, Sombero gave them paper bags with millions of pesos in exchange for the release of over 1,000 illegal Chinese workers arrested in Fontana.
Sombero was invited to the Senate probe into the scandal but failed to make it due to health conditions.
The retired cop, who was earlier issued an immigration lookout bulletin order (ILBO), claimed he was advised to see a cardiologist.