The arrest of real estate magnate Delfin Lee may serve as proof that the government manhunt for high-profile fugitives is gaining ground and that more arrests can be expected soon.
Deputy Presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said on Friday President Benigno Aquino 3rd has a “mental list” of the names of the six personalities who continue to elude arrest.
High on the government’s most-wanted list are former Army Gen. Jovito Palparan, former Gov. Joel Reyes of Palawan and his brother Mario Reyes, Ruben Ecleo Jr., and communist leaders Venito Tiamzon and Jorge Madlos.
Lee, the alleged mastermind in a P6.65-billion housing scam, was arrested by a team from the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in a hotel in Manila on Thursday night.
Lee, president of the Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp., 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.
Valte said the President “was updated last night when the tracker teams had finally pinned down Mr. Lee and you know, I suppose he has a mental list of the big [fugitives]. So, now, it’s one down,” Valte told newsmen.
With Lee’s capture, the government can focus now on the other fugitives, Valte said.
“Efforts that used to be concentrated on finding this particular person can now be diverted to other persons that need to be tracked down,” she 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.
Quoting President Aquino, she said the suspects “can run and but they will be found.”
“This is a good step at least for government because finally cases can move,” she said.
Lee’s arrest valid – Binay
Vice President Jejomar Binay on Friday defended Lee’s arrest saying the warrant issued by a lower court against Lee for syndicated estafa remains valid.
“The fact is the warrant against Lee is standing,” Binay said.
He is also chairman of the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF or Pag-Ibig Fund) Board of Trustees that filed the case against Lee.
A warrant issued by Judge Amifaith Fider-Reyes of the Pampanga Regional Trial Court Branch 42 for Lee was reversed by the Court of Appeals.
Binay debunked the claim of Lee’s camp that Lee was cleared of the charges after the Court of Appeals ordered the Pampanga court to recall the warrant last November.
Binay said the appellate court’s ruling cannot be implemented since the case was elevated by the government to the Supreme Court.
“According to CA, out of judicial courtesy since the case was already brought to SC, they have to stop. Meaning, the CA decision can’t be implemented,” he said.
If there is such a decision, Binay said Lee’s camp should have asked the Supreme Court to quash the warrant.
He said Lee “was just roaming around. In fact, I learned that he was in Rockwell [in Makati City]a week ago.”
Binay also revealed that there were attempts to dissuade authorities from carrying out the arrest warrant against Lee, but refused to provide details.
In 2012, President Aquino raised the reward for high-profile fugitives to increase the chances of their arrest.
Lee and Palparan each has a P2 million bounty, the Reyes brothers, P2 million each; Ecleo, P2 million; and P5.6 million for Tiamzon and Madlos.
Palparan is wanted for the deaths of activists while he was in the military.
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.
Authorities have been looking for Tiamzon and Madlos for years.