Senators get few answers on couple's assets
MANILA, Philippines - Former military comptroller Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot was set free Tuesday after testifying in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee inquiry on military corruption.
The former military official was detained for 5 days in the Senate after he and his wife were cited in contempt for allegedly feigning illness and skipping the Senate hearing last Thursday.
During Tuesday's hearing, Ligot and and wife Erlinda appealed to senators for more compassion amid being thrust into the limelight as the villains in the drama that has gripped the military for more than a month now.
The couple denied lying to the senators when they said they were too sick to attend the hearing last week.
“It’s not true that we are just reasoning, it’s not true we’re suffering from ‘ribbonitis,’” Erlinda said.
"Aaminin ko po hindi madali sa amin na senior citizens na tanungin at usigin sa harap ng camera at televised pa, na ma-prejudge ng media at publiko," she added.
Ligot, for his part, said he really did not feel well a day before the scheduled hearing. He decided not to go to the hospital because it was a simple fever that could be healed by over-the-counter medicines.
Who is Dara?
The couple promised to answer all questions, but was still chastised for being evasive several times during the hearing.
After some prompting from Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Erlinda finally admitted she went on travels 43 times in the past to different countries, including the United States.
Some of the trips were supposedly official, including a few where she had as companions the wives of the top brass in the military. She named them as: the wives of “General Bautista, General Arturo Enrile and General Liang.”
She would not reveal the identity, however, of the person nicknamed only as “Dara.” Estrada claimed “Dara” is also a wife of one of the generals.
It was “Dara” who also paid for some of those trips, Erlinda admitted. Aside from getting free tickets, Erlinda claimed she was able to go to the US using her mileage cards.
She said she could not remember how many times they were together. Estrada said both Erlinda and “Dara” left the country together 13 times and arrived together 10 times.
Erlinda claimed she and Dara left for the United States so that the latter could be introduced to relatives there. Dara supposedly sells lots in Lake Shore in Pampanga.
“We do long drivings, we went to Arizona, San Diego, Las Vegas, San Francisco,” she added.
She also said they visited Disneyland, which Estrada noted was in Anaheim. Asked if she owns some real estate properties in Anaheim, Erlinda said: “I invoke my right against self-incrimination.”
She also denied having purchased several bonds and other debt papers from foreign banks and the Bureau of the Treasury.
Senator Franklin Drilon said he has evidence that Erlinda purchased two certificates of deposit from Deutsche Bank worth $600,000 and $100,000, respectively. He said the debt papers would mature on July 23, 2013.
Apparently frustrated by her answers, Drilon then asked her if she would be willing to assign the proceeds of the debt papers in favor of the government.
Erlinda stressed she has to see the documents before she can give her go-signal.
Early in the hearing, Drilon told the Ligots to “crush and burn their perception, or inane, belief that they can get away with their unexplained wealth just by dodging our questions and invoking their right against self-incrimination. We are not playing games here.”
He also warned the Ligots’ lawyers they are not doing their clients a favor by giving them weak advice.
He recommended that forfeiture cases be filed against the couple and their relatives to include the properties that have not been identified in an earlier case before the Sandiganbayan.
He also recommended the filing of graft charges against them.