MANILA, Philippines - The wife of Sen. Lito Lapid reportedly apologized repeatedly to US authorities following her arrest in Las Vegas last year for allegedly smuggling $50,000 in cash.
“I’m sorry, it’s for my house,” US authorities quoted Marissa Lapid as saying. “I screwed up.”
Senator Lapid, for his part, said in a statement yesterday, “My wife can defend herself.”
The senator said his wife has submitted herself to the jurisdiction of a US court, which has authority over the case.
“This is sad, but my wife is ready to answer all the issues related to the incident. A lawyer is assisting her,” Lapid’s statement, which was in Filipino, read.
He added that they are waiting for details from Marissa’s lawyer. Lapid, who attended the seventh day of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona yesterday, confirmed the arrest of his wife on Wednesday, adding that she had posted bail.
Lapid’s spokesman Alex Marcelino has denied claims that Marissa went to Las Vegas to gamble.
“She and the senator have never gambled. They are never known to be fond of any form of gambling,” Marcelino told The STAR.
Marcelino said he was unaware why Marissa had been flying to Las Vegas recently, except that she was working on the citizenship of her grandchildren by daughter Mitchi who were born in the US.
He said Mark, who went on leave as general manager of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, is supposed to study in the US.
Marissa was arrested after arriving at the Las Vegas International Airport last Jan. 15. The arrest was based on a warrant issued last Jan. 5 for allegedly smuggling $50,000 in cash last Nov. 27.
The case was filed before US Magistrate Judge Peggy Leen, who gave weight to the testimony of Albert Giangregorio, special agent of the Homeland Security Investigation.
Giangregorio said that when Marissa arrived in Las Vegas from Manila, she declared she “was not carrying currency or monetary instruments over $10,000 in US currency or a foreign currency equivalent.”
Upon reexamination by a Customs Border and Protection officer, Marissa said she also had P10,000. But two socks containing $10,000 each and a cloth bag with $20,000 were found during an examination of Marissa’s carry-on luggage.
When asked about the money, Marissa reportedly replied, “I’m sorry. It’s for my house.”
Giangregorio said Marissa then apologized and repeatedly said “I screwed up.”
And now, plunder
Meanwhile, the arrest of Lapid’s wife in Las Vegas for alleged dollar smuggling has encouraged former Pampanga governor Ed Panlilio to pursue a plunder case against the senator and his son Mark.
In an interview, Panlilio said he would ask the Commission on Audit (COA) to reopen its investigation into reports that P500-million worth of lahar sand quarry income of the Pampanga provincial government when the Lapids were still governor were missing.
* Panlilio said the case of Marissa was similar to that of former Armed Forces comptroller Carlos Garcia, who was charged with plunder when his two sons were held at the San Francisco International Airport in 2009 for failure to declare $100,000 in cash.
He said the plunder case he had filed against the Lapids was dismissed by former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez two weeks before she resigned in May last year.
“The Ombudsman cited insufficiency of evidence, but COA has the data as to what happened,” Panlilio said. - Christina Mendez, Ding Cervantes