BY JOEL M. SY EGCO SENIOR REPORTER
Just two weeks after the capture of real estate magnate Delfin Lee, President Benigno Aquino 3rd said at least another high-profile fugitive is about to be arrested.
“What I can tell you is that we expect (another arrest), but I can’t tell you who,” Aquino said in an interview on Wednesday.
“You will be surprised with who will be arrested and who will make the arrest,” he said.
Lee, who is accused of being involved in the multibillion-peso Globe Asiatique land scam, was among the “Big Five” fugitives being hunted by authorities. Each of them has a P2-million bounty.
The President said the public is in for a “big surprise” when the suspect is finally presented by lawmen.
“He said he was not divulging details because the particular fugitive could get spooked and get away again,” he said. “Let’s just wait after the operation and you will be amazed at competence of our law-enforcers.”
High on the government’s most-wanted list are former Army Gen. Jovito Palparan, former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother Mario, and Ruben Ecleo Jr.
Two years ago, President Aquino raised the reward for the capture of the top fugitives to bolster the chances of their arrest.
Palparan is wanted for allegedly masterminding the killings of activists while he was in the military, while the Reyeses are implicated in the murder of broadcast journalist Gerry Ortega in January 2011.
Ecleo was found guilty of killing his wife in 2002.
The President said he would not allow any “influential” person to intercede after the fugitive is arrested, a reference to reports that a government official tried to talk policemen into releasing Lee.
He said the biggest proof that no people in high places tried to work for Lee’s release is the fact that he has been jailed.
Asked to comment on the reported phone call made by his ally, Mindoro Governor Alfonso Umali Jr. at the time of Lee’s arrest, Aquino maintained that instead of dwelling on a non-issue, the people should be thankful that the fugitive has been arrested.
On the supposed “delisting” of Lee from the roster of most wanted criminals, the President said he cleared the matter with Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Dir. Gen. Alan Purisima, who explained that it was the lawyer of the businessman who sought the removal of his client’s name.
Aquino said that besides Purisima’s verbal explanation, he received an “inch-thick” document detailing the process of delisting, but that he had no time to read it.
Lee, the president of the Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp, was arrested on March 6 by a team from the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in a hotel in Manila.
He is accused, along with four other people, of using ghost borrowers and fake documents to obtain massive loans from the Pag-Ibig Fund in 2009.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Lee’s fall was proof that government was serious in putting high-profile fugitives behind bars.
“Efforts that used to be concentrated on finding this particular person can now be diverted to other persons that need to be tracked down,” Valte said.
“We can say that [the victims]should not lose hope. Prior to the arrest of Mr. Lee, the complainants in the Globe Asiatique case might have felt the same [frustration]. Now, let’s look at the sudden turn of events. Last night, he [Lee] was already in government custody,” Valte added.