‘I do not know this American’, says Rep. Arroyo aide
Keeps hands off drug-laden SUV he once usedBy Nathaniel R. Melican |Philippine Daily Inquirer
Without waiting for the police to question him, a local politician and former chief of staff of Ang Galing Pinoy Representative Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo on Friday denied any link to the suspected American drug dealer recently arrested in Makati City and to the government vehicle found loaded with nine kilos of “shabu.”
Antonio Mariano Almeda, who is running for vice mayor in Caloocan City in the 2013 elections under the United Nationalist Alliance, confirmed that the vehicle—a Mitsubishi Pajero—was lent to him by the National Power Corp. (Napocor) when he was still working for Arroyo.
But he said he already sent it back to the state-owned company in 2009 (not 2010, as claimed by his lawyer in a Philippine Daily Inquirer interview on Thursday).
Almeda recalled receiving a “checklist” from Napocor as proof that the vehicle was returned. His lawyer, however, said “we are presently trying to locate” that document.
In a statement, Almeda said: “I do not know this American national Brian Hill. I have never met him. I never delivered the Pajero to him. I have never been to his residence.”
He was referring to the 32-year-old American disc jockey who was arrested on Tuesday in an upscale Makati condominium and who later led police to the Pajero.
The vehicle was later traced as a property of Napocor, which then disclosed that it was lent to Almeda in 2008 when his boss, Arroyo, was still vice chair of the joint congressional power committee. The company also said it had tried unsuccessfully to get the vehicle back from Almeda by writing to Arroyo’s office thrice since June 2010.
But Almeda said Friday he was “surprised” when news reports still linked him to the Pajero when it figured in the Makati drug bust.
“I have no idea how he [Hill] came to possess the Pajero or how the Pajero wound up in his garage,” he said.
“I returned the vehicle to Napocor after I ceased serving Congressman Arroyo in an official and professional capacity at the end of 2009. I have not possessed or used or driven the Pajero since then,” he stressed.
He said he used the vehicle for official visits to Napocor plants across the country when he was still working for Arroyo.
Almeda recalled ordering his driver to return the Pajero to Napocor in 2009. Later, he said, he got “a checklist” from Napocor as proof that it got the vehicle back.
Almeda could not be reached for an interview.
Instead, his lawyer Jay Flaminiano took the questions. Asked on the phone if Almeda could produce the “checklist” if needed, Flaminiano replied: “We are presently trying to locate the document to prove our point.”