MANILA, Philippines–There is no need for President Benigno Aquino III to request Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak to release fugitive Manuel Amalilio to Philippine authorities because foreign affairs and justice officials could work this out, Malacañang said Monday.
The President’s spokesperson, Secretary Edwin Lacierda, called last Friday’s aborted repatriation of Amalilio, alleged brains of the Ponzi scheme that duped 15,000 Filipinos of P12 billion, from Kota Kinabalu to Manila a “temporary setback.”
But officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Justice were now closely coordinating with their Malaysian counterparts to work for the eventual repatriation of Amalilio, Lacierda said.
“I don’t think so,’’ he said when asked whether the President would call Najib to facilitate Amalilio’s repatriation to Manila to face prosecution, “because we have a very good working relationship with our Malaysian counterparts. We don’t see that as a problem.’’
After all, the Philippines has a mutual legal assistance “mechanism’’ with its Southeast Asian neighbor, he said.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Sunday that the government was shifting to diplomacy to get Amalilio deported to Manila, and stressed continuing “police to police’’ cooperation between the two countries.
An apparent wrinkle emerged in the operation to get Amalilio after Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II declared that the Sabah chief minister, Musa Aman, ordered a stop to Amalilio’s deportation.
De Lima said that this could not be validated, and that the emergence of complaints from local scam victims in Kota Kinabalu was the likely reason for the aborted repatriation.
A team of Philippine law enforcers, who took over custody of Amalilio from Malaysian police, was waiting to board a plane to Manila last Friday when representatives from the police stopped them from departing with Amalilio.
They eventually boarded the flight without Amalilio, founder of the Aman Futures group that allegedly defrauded thousands of investors in the Visayas and Mindanao in a bogus investment scam.
Quoting De Lima, Lacierda said the delay in Amalilio’s repatriation was a “temporary setback.’’
“We are confident that, with the coordination of our Malaysian counterparts, we will be able to bring back Mr. Amalilio,” he said. “What happened last Friday was a mere temporary setback. We are in the process of bringing Mr. Amalilio back into the Philippines. So, rest assured that we are taking all efforts to ensure the repatriation of Mr. Amalilio to the Philippines.’’