Governor says he called up PNP chief on developer’s arrest
PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Sunday questioned Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso Umali over his alleged attempt to block the arrest of fugitive real estate magnate and Globe Asiatique owner Delfin Lee.
Aquino made the inquiry through a text message to Umali over the weekend, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said.
Umali told the President that he only called up Philippine National Police director general Alan Purisima as a favor to Gilbert Repizo, Lee’s lawyer, who is from Oriental Mindoro.
“Attorney Repizo wanted to know the basis for Mr. Lee’s arrest because as far as his camp knows, the Court of Appeals already issued a decision favoring his client. When Governor Umali asked this, General Purisima said the arrest warrant against Mr. Lee is still valid. That is where they ended their conversation.”
“According to Governor Umali, he already explained this to President Aquino after he was asked through a text message,” Coloma added.
Umali is the treasurer of Aquino’s Liberal Party.
But Coloma would not say if the President was satisfied with Umali’s explanation.
“I cannot go beyond what I have stated because that is all I know at present,” he said.
Umali on Sunday admitted calling Purisima, but said this was not to block the arrest of Lee, but to find out the basis for his arrest.
“It is also not true that I engage General Purisima in a shouting match,” Umali said.
Umali said Purisima told him that Lee needs a release order from the Court of Appeals.
“But I did not shout at him to release Delfin Lee. How could I berate a PNP chief?” he said. “In fact, Alan is a friend of mine, and I call him Boss. You don’t shout at the PNP chief.”
Over the weekend, Vice President Jejomar Binay said Lee should not be given any special treatment and should be transfered to an ordinary provincial jail.
“The arrest of Delfin Lee is the first step for all Pag-IBIG Fund (Home Development Mutual Fund) members and thousands of victims of double sale in attaining justice,” he said.
“Now, we must apply the rule of law and not give special treatment to the accused. Lee should be put in an ordinary provincial jail just like any accused,” Binay added.
Lee was brought to Camp Crame for a medical checkup after his arrest in a hotel Thursday night.
On Friday morning, he was brought before the Pampanga Regional Trial Court branch that issued the arrest warrant against him. He is currently detained at the National Bureau of Investigation office in San Fernando City.
Binay, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and of the Pag-IBIG Fund board of trustees, ordered the filing of syndicated estafa charges against Lee and several GA officials in December 2010.
An earlier probe showed that Lee used fake documents and ghost borrowers who supposedly bought homes in GA’s Xevera housing project in Mabalacat, Pampanga to secure some P7 billion in loans from the Pag-IBIG Fund.
The Senate committee on urban planning, housing and settlement said it would conduct its own investigation into the Global Asiatique case.
Panel chairman Senator JV Ejercito said he would file a reoslution calling for such an inquiry in aid of legislation.
He also expressed the hope that the case against Lee would move forward with his arrest.
Lee was on the government list of big-time fugitives along with former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, retired general Jovito Palparan, Dinagat Rep. Ruben Ecleo and NPA leaders Benito Tiamzon and Jorge Madios.
Lee’s lawyers say his arrest was illegal, since the Court of Appeals had ordered his arrest warrant recalled.
But Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has maintained that the arrest warrant against Lee was valid because there is a pending petition filed by the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG) before the Supreme Court questioning the CA ruling.
Lee has maintained his innocence, but the NBI said he made false representations and submitted fake documents to secure loans from Pag-IBIG.
Records showed that of the 9,951 alleged Pag-IBIG borrowers in the Globe Asiatique transactions, 1,000 could not be located, 400 denied applying for housing loans and 200 had incomplete documents for the transaction.
It was also discovered that some of the buyers were allegedly fake Pag-IBIG members and others were ineligible for membership.
The case stemmed from the alleged use of fictitious members of Pag-IBIG to defraud the agency of billions in housing loans to be used in Globe Asiatique’s projects in Bacolor and Mabalacat towns in Pampanga from 2008 to 2011. – With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Robert A. Evora
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