Senators dismayed over Sombero departure despite a lookout order

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) caught the ire of senators on Thursday for allowing Wally Sombero to leave the country despite an Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order (ILBO) against him for his alleged involvement in a P50 million corruption scandal.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre himself confirmed Sombero was able to leave the country on January 17, a month after the Justice Department issued the ILBO.

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Richard Gordon expressed exasperation as he confronted BI Commissioner Jaime Morente.

"Kung nakalusot yan, pinalusot," Gordon said. "We're beginning to be the laughing stock of the whole world, nakakapasok ang mga [illegal] workers, nakakalabas ang mga prominenteng tao (illegal workers come in, prominent people are allowed to go."

Sombero is an associate of gambling tycoon Jack Lam, who allegedly bribed former Immigration deputy commissioners Michael Robles and Al Argosino in exchange for the release of over 1,300 undocumented Chinese workers who were arrested from Lam's casino in Clark, Pampanga on November 24.

Morente said the immigration officers on duty told him Sombero presented a passport under the name "Wenceslao Sombero" and not "Wally Sombero," as written in the ILBO.

Morente said he was only informed about Sombero's departure four hours after he left, when the immigration officers realized it was the same Sombero in the ILBO.

Gordon is not buying this alibi. "I don't think they are poorly trained," Gordon said.

Senator Leila De Lima, who is also under an ILBO over drug-related charges, said it's not easy to pass airport security when you are being monitored.

"When I arrived at the airport, several Immigration officers were waiting for me, they asked immediately for my travel authority," De Lima said.

She said it should also be probed why the ILBO does not contain Sombero's full name, Wenceslao.

De Lima moved to cite Sombero in contempt for failing to attend the Senate hearing for the third time now.

Although Gordon said he wanted to accept De Lima's motion, he withheld it citing "humanitarian reasons, since Sombero was claiming he's sick.

Gordon asked Sombero's lawyer, Atty. Ted Contacto to submit to the Senate a medical certificate to prove Sombero's medical condition.

Sombero, in a letter said he boarded a flight back to the Philippines from Vancouver on February 9 but airport authorities barred him from doing so because of "sweating and shortness of breath." He also attached in the letter a copy of his boarding pass and photos of him being tended by medics.

CNN Philippines' Cecille Lardizabal contributed to this report.