Aquino: Brace for arrest of high-profile fugitive

President Benigno Aquino III defends the Philippine National Police which is facing criticism for the irregularities of Delfin Lee's arrest

BRACE FOR ARREST. President Benigno Aquino III defends the Philippine National Police and says a high-fugitive criminal will soon be arrested. Malacañang Photo Bureau

MANILA, Philippines – Expect the arrest of a high-profile fugitive soon.

These were the words of President Benigno Aquino III, who on Wednesday, March 19, said an ongoing operation will likely succeed.

“What I can tell you now is that we are expecting [the arrest of] someone – I won’t say who. All I can say is I think if the current operation is successful, you will be impressed by the caliber of those that were caught and will be caught,” he said in a media interview after addressing the Pinoy Music Summit at the Landbank buiilding in Malate.

Aquino made the statement amid criticism of the Philippine National Police (PNP) stemming from alleged irregularities in the arrest of businessman Delfin Lee, one of the top five most wanted fugitives in the country until his arrest on March 6.

“I think I can promise that if [the arrest] is successful, you will be shocked. Now if you ask me for details, the person might notice that I am referring to that individual and go missing again. So let’s just wait until the operation is over and you will see the abilities already shown by our law enforcement entities,” he said, when asked if another high-profile arrest would be made soon.

The most wanted fugitives in the country include former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes, his brother and former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, former Dinagat Island Representative Ruben Ecleo and retired Army Major General Jovito Palparan.

The President also defended the PNP and shrugged off Vice President Jejomar Binay’s accusations that “influential persons,” including his ally Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali, attempted to interfere and stop the arrest of Lee.

“Why don’t we just be grateful? I’ve already answered this before. Where is Mr Lee now? Arrested. So who was blocking it? Isn’t it if someone from high up, influential, blocked it, there would be no arrest? He’s been caught, he is in jail, isn’t he? That should be a good enough answer. What else do we need to prove?,” he said.

The arrest of Lee – for syndicated estafa charges filed by the Department of Justice over the alleged use of ghost borrowers to obtain P6.6 billion loans from Pag-IBIG Fund in 2009 – has been marred by suspicions and accusations. (READ: Purisima misleading public)

Aside from Binay’s allegations, Lee’s camp claims that his detention is “illegal” since he was already removed from the PNP’s list of people with standing arrest warrants. A housing official also disclosed that the PNP had planned to release Lee immediately after his arrest, while the arresting officer, Senior Superintendent Conrad Capa has been relieved from his post although the PNP insists Capa’s transfer to Cebu is a promotion. –