Liberal Party treasurer admits calling PNP chief, but no requests made
MANILA (UPDATED) - An influential person tried to stop police from arresting fugitive businessman Delfin Lee, Vice-President Jejomar Binay said Friday.
Binay, however, refused to name the person.
"Kumpirmahin niyo na lang ang sinasabi sa akin na nakipagsigawan sya para palabasin," he said.
So, who tried to stop authorities from arresting Lee?
Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso Umali said it wasn't him, but he admitted calling Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Alan Purisima to discuss the businessman's arrest.
Umali is president of the League of Provinces and treasurer of the ruling Liberal Party.
"Oo, kasi tumawag yung abogado niya na from Mindoro, and sabi sa akin, hinuli eh meron naman silang quashal ng warrant sa Court of Appeals. Ang sabi naman ni chief PNP, kailangan daw kumuha ng release order ng CA," he said.
Umali said he made no demand or request that Lee be released immediately.
But Umali said Lee's arrest was a surprise because he believes that the Court of Appeals already quashed the arrest warrant against Lee, who was wanted for the multibillion-peso Globe Asiatique housing scam.
He said the PNP had already removed Lee from its wanted list.
"Hindi na nga siya nagtatatago eh, akala namin hindi na siya huhulihin," Umali said.
Asked about his relationship with Lee, Umali said that his friend is Lee's lawyer, Atty. Gilbert Repizo, not Lee.
But Umali admitted he was helping Repizo arrange for Lee to be accepted into the government's Witness Protection Program.
"Kasi, ilang weeks nang nagpasabi na nag-aaply siyang maging state witness," he said.
Umali said he has no details about Lee's application to become state witness or the targets of his potential testimony.
However, another lawyer of Lee denied Friday that the businessman plans to become a state witness.
Atty. Willie Rivera claimed that his client no longer faces any criminal charge and Umali might have just been misquoted about Lee wanting to become a state witness.
"He's a fraternity brother (referring to Umali). He should not be saying that," he said.
Rivera said he -- and not Repizo -- is handling Lee's case. "Ako po ang lawyer niya and his services will not be engaged."
He said they will file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus at the Court of Appeals on Monday to force the police to free Lee.
Binay: CA ruling not final, executory
Binay said the CA ruling that favored Lee was not final and executory because the government has raised the case before the Supreme Court.
"Sinasabi ng mga abogado ni Delfin Lee tsaka ni Delfin Lee na meron ng desisyon ang Court of Appeals na wala siyang kaso. 'Yun ang sa Court of Appeals pero sinasabi niya pa noong Nobyembre pa wala namang gumagalaw. Kung meron ng desisyon na ganun na [dapat] ng i-enforce busy na sana 'yung trial court," he said. "Sinabihan nila ni attorney 'yun, 'Oh judge, wala na ho 'yang kuwan ninyo mag-issue na ho kayo na i-quash na 'yung warrant.' The fact is, andoon pa. Standing warrant pa 'yun. Nag-issue pa nga ng warrant."
"Sabi ng CA, out of judicial courtesy, sapagkat dinala na 'yung kaso sa SC. Tigil na. Ibig sabihin antayin natin ngayon na husgahan ito ng Korte Suprema. 'Yung desisyon sa CA, hindi na pwedeng i-implement 'yun," he added.
Binay said those who are trying to influence the case are mistaken.
"Siguro nagkamali ng presentasyon 'yung mga nagpapakilalang sila ay mga influential," he said. "Si Mr. Lee akala niya tama 'yung ginagawa nila."
He added that Lee was also seen inside a shopping mall a few weeks ago before he was finally arrested. "Si Mr. Delfin, Lee kitang-kita na palabas-labas lang 'yan dito. Katunayan noong isang linggo nabalitaan ko nasa Rockwell pa nga."
Binay said the government has a strong case against those behind the scam. "Saku-sako ang ebidensiya dito. Andaming ebidensiya dito. 'Di ko malaman kung paano sasabihing walang probable cause 'yun. Abut-abot 'yung kaso 'nun, kaya nga bilyong piso."