Cops' debate over Delfin Lee arrest 'unbelievable,' says Subido
MANILA - A high-ranking official of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) believes there is an "unseen hand" at work in the delisting of fugitive businessman Delfin Lee from the list of the most wanted persons in the Philippines and his near-release after his arrest last March 6.
Speaking to ANC, HUDCC Deputy Secretary General and Assistant Secretary Daniel Subido confirmed that several high-ranking police officials were debating whether or not to release Lee after his arrest last March 6.
He said he had to justify Lee's arrest, a position that was backed up by Task Force Tugis head Senior Superintendent Conrad Capa.
"It was unbelievable that the PNP was debating about the issue because the PNP has no business debating whether the arrest warrant is valid or not. It is the sole jurisdiction of the courts to determine whether the arrest is valid or not," he said in an interview on ANC's Dateline Philippines.
"The moment the policemen start debating on what to do and actually delisting a person from the database on the arrest warrants is an intervention on the jurisdiction of the courts. This is a dangerous precedent and if it will happen again, criminals will be having a field day," he added.
He said what is even more dangerous is the delisting of Lee's name from the Warrant of Arrest Information System Section (WAISS) of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation Division Group (CIDG) as early as November 20, 2013 after the Court of Appeals quashed his arrest warrant.
He said the memorandum issued by the CIDG last November 20 even enjoined all other PNP organizations from implementing the arrest warrant. A news report earlier said Senior Superintendent Eliseo Rasco, chief of the directorial staff of the CIDG, issued the memorandum.
Asked who could be helping Lee, Subido said: "It is still unclear on who these influential people are but the circumstances clearly show they are there. There is an unseen hand orchestrating all of this delisting and prevention of arrest."
"In my 15 years of practice as a lawyer, all a policeman has to do is implement a warrant. I have never seen a delisting of an accused against a warrant of arrest just because the lawyer of the accused presented certain documents. It is impossible to happen and the police will not do that on their own."
Lee is accused of using ghost borrowers and fake documents to obtain P6.65 billion in loans from Pag-IBIG Fund in 2009. He was arrested by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) in a hotel in Manila on March 6.
Lee's lawyers have said the arrest is illegal because the CIDG had already issued a certification that Lee was removed from the WAISS database as of Nov. 20, 2013. This was after the Court of Appeals quashed last Nov. 7, 2013 an arrest warrant issued by the Pampanga regional trial court against Lee.
Lee's camp also issued a letter certification from CIDG Acting Chief Supt Benjamin Magalong addressed to one of Lee's lawyers, Atty Willie Rivera, dated Jan 16, 2014, stating that Lee's arrest warrant has been delisted from the WAISS database.
Another letter certification from no less than PNP Chief Alan Purisima, addressed to Atty. Emmanuel Pichay, stated that the PNP "fully recognizes and acknowledges" the CA ruling directing all law enforcement agencies from effecting Lee's arrest.
Who ordered delisting?
Subido said the delisting of Lee and actions to prevent his arrest are an affront to President Aquino who posted a P2 million reward for Lee's arrest. He said the delisting is a "grave violation of the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary."
Subido said police officials could not explain why Lee was delisted or why the Department of Justice was not informed that they were no longer pursuing Lee. The DOJ has brought the matter of Lee's arrest to the Supreme Court, which issued a temporary stay order that states the warrant for Lee's arrest is still in effect.
PNP chief Alan Purisima earlier said Lee was never delisted and that his warrant of arrest was still effective. He said Lee was only removed from the list of fugitives because the reward for his capture had been withdrawn.
He also said the issue never reached Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas.
Subido said the inconsistencies between the PNP and the Department of the Interior and Local Government are fueling speculations on who really ordered the delisting.
"It is a dangerous precedent. I saw all of those letters. All of these emanated from the November 20 memorandum wherein it was categorically stated that Delfin Lee was already delisted and the PNP organization is enjoined from implementing the warrant of arrest. This memorandum of November 20 was reiterated in the January 15 letter and a certification again to that effect," he said.
He also described as "highly questionable" the transfer of Task Force Tugis chief Capa to Cebu a week after Lee's arrest.
He said interviews with Capa about his transfer showed that the police official was clearly demoralized.
He said police officers who are just doing their jobs should not be unilaterally transferred to another position.
"We stand by the actions of Capa. It is up to the PNP to justify [his transfer] but as an observer from the public, it's highly questionable," he said.