PAMPANGA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Vice President Jejomar Binay said Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali is not the only “influential person” trying to intervene in favor of arrested property developer Delfin Lee.
Binay said that he never named the “influential persons” who supposedly opposed Lee’s arrest but Umali later admitted he called Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima about it. (READ: Binay: Powerful people trying to save Lee)
In a dialogue with homeowners of Globe Asiatique’s Xevera housing project in Mabalacat, Pampanga, on Monday, March 10, Binay said there are other people interceding for the president of Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp (GARHC).
Asked who these are, Binay said, “Meron pa pero ‘di ko na sasabihin basta’t alam nila na sila ang aking tinutukoy.” (There are others but I won’t reveal their names but they know they are the ones I am referring to.)
“’Nung una akong na-interview, sinabi ko iyan. Wala along binanggit na pangalan. Ayoko ring magbanggit pa. Alam naman nila sino silang tinutukoy ko. Eh meron isa umamin sa telepono siya nagsabi. I’m sorry, ayon sa police, may mga influential persons dito.” (When I was first interviewed, I said that. I did not mention names. I don’t want to do so. They know who I am referring to. But someone admitted he made a call. I’m sorry, according to the police, there are influential persons here.)
Binay is the chairman of the board of the Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG Fund, which filed a syndicated estafa case against Lee for allegedly using ghost borrowers and fake documents to obtain P7 billion in loans from Pag-IBIG.
Pag-IBIG also found that Lee’s company engaged in the double sale of units in Mabalacat and Bacolor, Pampanga. The homeowners who attended the dialogue were victims of the scam, and have yet to get a title to the property they have been paying for years.
Binay refused to comment on the propriety of Umali’s call to Purisima. In media interviews, Umali, a staunch ally of President Benigno Aquino III, said he called Purisima to inquire about the status of Lee’s arrest upon the request of Lee’s lawyer, Gilbert Repizo. Umali admitted he knew Repizo as they both hail from Oriental Mindoro. Repizo is also reportedly a lawyer for Umali.
“I’ll leave the interpretation to you, you be the one to interpret what he did,” Binay responded.
The police arrested Lee on Thursday, March 6, over his alleged involvement in a P6.6-billion housing scam. On Monday, March 10, he asked the Court of Appeals to order his release from “illegal detention.”
Also on Monday, Malacañang Palace said it found nothing unusual with Umali’s call.
In a text message to reporters, Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma said “Gov Umali has explained to the President the phone call he made to PNP Chief Purisima on the arrest of Mr. Delfin Lee” adding simply, “the President is satisfied with his explanation.”
Malacañang however, did not provide details of Umali’s explanation, only insisting “Governor Umali never made any further action” after asking Purisima about the status of Lee’s arrest.
“Governor Umali called up Chief Purisima and General Purisima informed Governor Umali that the warrant of arrest against Mr. Delfin Lee was still outstanding; and, therefore, that was the end of the conversation. Governor Boy Umali explained to the President and the President was satisfied with the explanation,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda reiterated.
Lacierda said what was important was the Lee was arrested and is now under detention.
The Palace also denied that Aquino easily accepted Umali’s explanation because the two are political allies.
“It happens always, he validates with the person concerned. If there’s a report that came out, he wants to know if it’s true or not. He always does that,” Lacierda said.
PNP should explain
Binay said it is up to the police to explain a Jan 8, 2014 letter from Purisima where the PNP chief said the police was in the process of “delisting” Lee from the list of wanted persons, subject to final approval by Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. Lee’s lawyers cited the supposed certification in questioning his arrest.
“Delisting is different from saying there is no warrant of arrest anymore. I think delisting agrees there is a standing warrant but apparently, it means the effort to arrest the accused is not as intense …. Better ask the PNP what is the meaning of delisting,” Binay said.
Despite the alleged attempts of “influential persons” to meddle in the case and Lee’s legal moves questioning his arrest, Binay sought to assure the homeowners that Pag-IBIG Fund will pursue the case.
Asked if he was open to a settlement, Binay said it is up to the homeowners as they are the complainants.
The homeowners angrily shouted, “No way! ‘Di kami magigisa uli sa sariling mantika. No way magpapaloko kami!” (We will not be fooled twice. No way!)
‘How can Lee be state witness?’
Binay also rejected reports that Lee might offer to turn state witness to point to the mastermind of the scam.
“How can Delfin Lee be a state witness? One of the qualifications to be a state witness is you are not the most guilty. But he is number one on the list so how can he be state witness,” Binay exclaimed.
Lee’s other lawyer Willie Rivera said there was no such offer, calling it “misinformation” from Repizo. He said Repizo had no authority to make that announcement.
Anxious homeowners expressed concern that Lee might be put under hospital arrest after he complained about high blood pressure and other ailments while in detention at the San Fernando, Pampanga National Bureau of Investigation detention center. Lee was not able to post bail because syndicated estafa is non-bailable.
Binay said that Lee should be transferred to the provincial jail and not be given special treatment.
“Tila usong-uso ngayon ang lahat ng nakasuhan na ‘di pwede magpiyansa ay nagkakasakit. Eh buking na buking na iyon.” (It seems all those who face non-bailable are charges fall ill. That style is already exposed.)
‘Join us in case vs Lee’
Binay and Pag-IBIG President and CEO Darlene Berberabe urged the homeowners to join Pag-IBIG in filing cases against Lee.
“If they reduce the charge from syndicated estafa to simple estafa, which I don’t believe because we have strong evidence, but assuming they do, if there are thousands of us complainants, he will also have a hard time posting bail because that will cost millions,” Binay said in Filipino.
Berberabe said Pag-IBIG Fund was determined to pursue its appeal before the Supreme Court questioning a November 2013 Court of Appeals ruling clearing Lee of syndicated estafa.
In its ruling, the appellate court said it cannot prosecute Lee for syndicated estafa, which requires at least 5 respondents. The CA previously dismissed the case filed against some of Lee’s co-accused.
Berberabe said there are 3 other syndicated estafa charges against Lee pending before the Department of Justice. Binay said the Pag-IBIG Fund will assist the homeowners in filing the case.
“Those who were fooled, let’s file a case. We always say government is not doing anything but government cannot do anything if you don’t complain. Many of you don’t want to file because you might be asked to leave your house. How can they do that? We will not back down from the case. We need to get justice for all of you who were fooled,” Binay said. – Rappler.com