PNP explains delisting, says Umali call not unusual

Bea Cupin
'Delisting,' explains PNP chief Alan Purisima, only means the bounty on a suspect's head is removed, but he remains on the wanted list

NOT THE ISSUE? Chief PNP Director General Alan Purisima insists the issue should not be the "delisting" but the validity of the arrest warrant against Delfin Lee. Photo by Bea Cupin/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Hounded by allegations of “influential people” meddling in the arrest of wanted businessman Delfin Lee, the head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) said there was nothing unusual about a call made by an administration ally.

Chief PNP Director General Alan Purisima on Thursday, March 13, said there was nothing unusual about Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali’s call on the night of Lee’s arrest.

Speaking during a press conference, Purisima said Umali simply asked whether Lee’s warrant was still valid. Umali, a staunch ally of President Benigno Aquino III, knows Lee’s lawyer, Gilbert Repizo, a former councilor of Calapan.

Umali’s call, and the continuing controversy surrounding the arrest, is rooted in the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)’s “delisting” of Lee from its list of most wanted. The CIDG also issued a document that certified the absence of arrest warrants against Lee, citing a November 2013 Court of Appeals (CA) decision that quashed the arrest warrant issued by a Pampanga regional trial court.

The call didn’t even last a minute, said Purisima. “That’s normal, nangyayari sa akin yan. Close friend ko si Gov. Umali. I didn’t even know na kakilala niya pala [si Delfin Lee],” he said. (That happens. Umali is a close friend. I didn’t even know he knows Lee.)

PNP doesn’t quash warrants

During the press conference, Purisima insisted that the “delisting” should not be the issue. “The issue is: effective pa ba ‘yung warrant? It was effective,” he told reporters.

Purisima said “delisting” is simply an “administrative process” in the PNP. “Delisting” wanted fugitives does not affect standing warrants. It only affects bounties offered for the capture of the PNP’s most wanted.

A memorandum issued by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in 2012 placed a P2-million reward for information that would lead to the arrest of Lee and 4 other individuals.

Sinabi ng CIDG na na-delist nila, pero the final decision is with the secretary [of the DILG]. Kasi ‘pag sinabi mong na-delist mo siya, sinasabi mong wala nang reward. That is the effect of the action,” added Purisima. (The CIDG said he was delisted, but the final decision rests with the DILG secretary, because delisting means the reward is revoked.)

The DILG’s role is limited to approving the names on the list and the corresponding reward, said DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas II in a statement on Tuesday. Roxas said the DILG never revoked the memorandum on the bounty for Lee’s arrest since the request was never forwarded to his office. 

Ang pagbibigay ng warrant, nanggagaling sa korte. Kung may warrant of arrest ka, hindi ‘yun p’wedeng ibura ng mga pulis,” Purisima said. (The warrant comes from the courts. If you have a standing warrant of arrest, the police cannot lift that.)

Lee is wanted for allegedly siphoning off P6.6 billion from the Home Development and Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG by using ghost borrowers to obtain housing loans. He is currently detained in the Pampanga provincial jail.

Honest mistake or outside influence? 

Still, various groups are questioning the CIDG’s “honest mistake” of issuing a document to certify Lee’s “delisting” and the absence of a warrant against him. Senator Nancy Binay filed a resolution asking the Senate to conduct an inquiry into the PNP’s actions.

Binay’s father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, said “influential people” were throwing their weight around to influence the case against Lee.

Purisima dismissed these claims, saying the PNP and the CIDG were not privy to legal moves that occurred after the CA’s decision. That’s why the CIDG “delisted” Lee.

There were no communications to that effect na may ginagawa pa ‘yung mga lawyers sa Pag-IBIG…. We were not informed of any action, so the presumption is that valid ‘yung quashing of the warrant,” he added. (There was no communication on the actions of Pag-IBIG’s lawyers…. We weren’t informed of any action, so the presumption is that the quashing of the warrant was valid.)

Roxas in a statement said he would investigate whoever was responsible for Lee’s “delisting.” Purisima, however, said the CIDG did nothing wrong.

A lot has happened since Lee’s arrest. Less than a week after Lee was arrested by the PNP, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the CA’s ruling that quashed Lee’s warrant of arrest. The CA on Thursday, March 13, dismissed Lee’s petition to be released, citing the SC’s TRO–

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.