Lawyer shields Mikey aide on ‘shabu’ PajeroBy Kristine Felisse Mangunay, Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The former chief of staff of Ang Galing Pinoy party-list Representative Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo let his lawyer do the talking in a bid to clear his name a day after it cropped up in connection with a P50-million drug bust in Makati City, in which a government vehicle lent to him in 2008 yielded nine kilos of “shabu.”
Speaking for Antonio Mariano Almeda, lawyer Jay Flaminiano on Thursday said his client had asked his driver to return the Mitsubishi Pajero to the National Power Corp. (Napocor) sometime in 2010 and “that was the last of it.”
Reached on the phone, Flaminiano said Almeda was reminded by Representative Arroyo, his boss at that time, to return the vehicle to Napocor that year. Almeda then instructed his driver to do just that.
Later, when Almeda asked the driver for receipts attesting to the turnover of the vehicle, the latter said the papers would soon follow, according to Flaminiano.
“We’re making our own inquiries as to why (the vehicle figured in the drug bust),” Flaminiano said. He declined to give further details but said Almeda, also a lawyer and currently a vice mayoral candidate in Caloocan City under the United Nationalist Alliance, would issue a statement on Friday.
Napocor on Wednesday revealed that it lent the Pajero (SEP 825) to Almeda in April 2008 when Arroyo was still chairman of the House committee on energy. Almeda then requested a vehicle he could use in inspecting decommissioned power plants in Luzon and Eastern Visayas, Napocor recalled in a statement.
Napocor said it had written thrice to Arroyo’s office since June 2010 asking for the vehicle’s return, but that the letters remained unanswered.
The company made the disclosure after the Pajero figured in Tuesday’s arrest of suspected American drug dealer Brian Hill in his Makati City condominium. Police said Hill later led them to the vehicle.
The American was formally charged on Thursday at the Department of Justice, which set the preliminary investigation hearing of his case on Monday.
In Camp Crame, Chief Inspector Roque Merdegia, chief investigator of the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (PNP-AIDSOTF), clarified that Almeda was not yet considered under investigation in relation to the drug bust.
Merdegia added that the Pajero was “last seen (at) nightclubs in August 2010 somewhere in Manila and it was not Almeda who was using it.”
The official said investigators were still “gathering documents” and checking how the Pajero ended up with Hill, 32, who was arrested at The Columns, an upscale address at the corner of Ayala and Gil Puyat Avenues.
He said the police were still waiting for a formal reply from Napocor on the matter, although the state-run company had already issued a media statement pointing to Almeda as the vehicle’s last known user.—With a report from Christine O. Avendaño