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After Lee, another big fish expected

MANILA, Philippines—Brace yourself for the capture of another big fish.

President Aquino on Wednesday hinted at the impending arrest of yet another high-profile fugitive, more than two weeks after the arrest of housing developer Delfin Lee.

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Speaking on the sidelines of the Pinoy Music Festival in Manila, the President declined to divulge more details, but said the ongoing operation, if successful, would “surprise” the media.

“You will be impressed with the caliber of those who would be arrested,” he said during an ambush interview.

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“I can promise you that you will be surprised, if the [operation] succeeds,” he added, noting that the outcome would show “the ability [of] our law enforcement entities.”

With Lee now behind bars, the country’s top fugitives have been reduced to four—retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother Mario, and former Dinagat Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr. Each of them has a P2-million price on his head.

Reynald “Jojo” Lim, brother of detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, has a P5-million bounty.

The President defended the Philippine National Police and his political ally, Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso Umali, in connection with the capture of Lee, who is accused of syndicated estafa charges, a nonbailable offense.

Lee, who is detained at the Pampanga provincial jail in the City of San Fernando, allegedly defrauded the Pag-Ibig Fund of some P7 billion using bogus borrowers, who had lent their names and signatures to his company, Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp., in exchange for sums of up to P5,000.

When the borrowers were unable to pay the loans, Globe Asiatique paid the amortization and sold the housing units to other buyers, resulting in double selling.

Asked to explain the phone call made by Umali to PNP Director General Alan Purisima on the arrest of Lee, the President replied: “Perhaps, we should just thank [the police].”

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“As I say, the right answer to that is, ‘Where is Mr. Lee now?’ Arrested. So who blocked his arrest? Isn’t it that if someone influential, someone occupying a high position intervened, he would not have been arrested. But he was and he’s now in jail, right?” he added.

Umali, treasurer of the ruling Liberal Party, came under fire for making the phone call, especially after Vice President Jejomar Binay alleged that influential people had tried to have Lee released.

Malacañang earlier said the President was “satisfied” with Umali’s explanation about the call when the two political allies exchanged text messages.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Delfin Lee, fugitives
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