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Aquino clears LP bigwig who interceded for Lee

Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso Umali: Cleared. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The ranking Liberal Party (LP) official criticized for calling the Philippine National Police chief over the arrest of housing developer Delfin Lee has been practically cleared by President Aquino.

Malacañang on Monday announced that the President was “satisfied” with the explanation given by Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso Umali, who admitted calling PNP Director General Alan Purisima in connection with Lee’s arrest last week.

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“Umali has explained to the President the phone call he made to PNP Chief Purisima on the arrest of Mr. Delfin Lee and the President is satisfied with his explanation,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said in a text message to reporters.

But presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda could not tell how the President arrived at that conclusion or if he simply took the explanation at face value. Umali is the treasurer of the President’s Liberal Party.

“I’m sorry if I cannot answer you any further,” Lacierda replied.

Quoting Umali, Coloma on Sunday said the LP official had phoned Purisima on the “request” of Lee’s lawyer, Gilbert Repizo, who reportedly hails from Oriental Mindoro.

Repizo wanted to “clarify the basis for the arrest of Mr. Lee because as far as his camp knew, the Court of Appeals already has a decision in favor of his client,” Coloma added, still quoting Umali.

Purisima reportedly told the lawyer that the arrest warrant was still valid. Lee was arrested at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Casino in Manila on March 6.

Told that the public might think that the President accepted Umali’s explanation simply because he was a party mate, Lacierda pointed to the “fact” that Aquino personally called the governor’s attention to the phone call.

Lacierda insisted that the President applied no “double-standard” in the case of his political ally.

“No, it happens always. He validates with the person concerned. If there’s a report that came out, he wants to know if it’s true or not. He always does that,” he said.

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Apologize

The independent minority bloc in the House of Representatives, meanwhile, is urging Umali to apologize to the thousands of victims of the Globe Asiatique scam.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, head of the independent minority, said he would also ask Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. to invite Umali for a “question hour” to shed light on his ties to Lee.

“The bloc is calling on Governor Umali to publicly apologize to victims of Globe Asiatique for his reported intervention on the arrest of Delfin Lee,” Romualdez said in a press conference.

Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said that such “influence peddling” had no place in society, especially when it “involved a big leader of the administration calling up the police chief telling him to release a wanted personality who has a P2-million reward on his head.”

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TAGS: Alfonso Umali, Benigno Aquino III, Delfin Lee, intercede, Liberal Party, Politics
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