MANILA, Philippines - The Senate committee investigating the P6.6-billion housing scam involving Globe Asiatique (GA) developer Delfin Lee has summoned Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Alan Purisima to shed light on Lee’s arrest last month.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, chairman of the Senate committee on urban planning, housing and resettlement, said the committee wants to know the circumstances behind Lee’s supposed delisting from the PNP’s most wanted list.
Senior Superintendent Conrad Capa, former head of the PNP-Task Force Tugis that tracked down Lee, was also invited to attend the next hearing.
Capa led the team that arrested Lee last March 6 at the Hyatt Hotel in Manila, after he eluded arrest for two years for a criminal case of syndicated estafa on the alleged P6.6-billion housing scam.
The Senate committee has also subpoenaed Lee to appear in the next hearing.
Although the committee investigation is focused on the housing controversy that victimized many homeowners, Ejercito said it is also important to look into allegations regarding the attempt to protect Lee from criminal prosecution.
“We need to look into the controversy that surrounds Lee’s arrest in order to find out what really happened,” Ejercito told reporters after the hearing Tuesday.
Sen. Nancy Binay called for the investigation into why Lee was removed from the most wanted list and the reasons for the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG)’s issuing a certification that the real estate developer was removed from the list of the warrant of arrest database.
Binay said she is also concerned over what happened to Capa who was transferred barely a week after arresting Lee.
Ejercito also directed the Senate secretariat to invite former Pag-Ibig chief executive officer Jaime Fabiana to attend the hearing.
It was under Fabiana’s term that the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between Pag-Ibig and Globe Asiatique was forged in 2009.
Citing parliamentary courtesy, Ejercito said the Senate is not sending any invitation to former Pag-Ibig CEO and now Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo. The senator encouraged Quimbo to voluntarily come to the Senate hearing if he wants to explain his side.
During last Tuesday’s hearing, Pag-Ibig Fund president Darlene Berberabe said Quimbo was no longer the head of the housing agency when it approved the full implementation of GA’s P5-billion loan in June 2009.
Berberabe cited records saying Quimbo resigned in March 2009, as shown in a letter of former vice president Noli de Castro addressed to the board of trustees at the time.
Berberabe said the memorandum between GA and Pag-Ibig was signed shortly after Fabiana became Pag-ibig CEO.
De Castro appeared before the Senate Tuesday, testifying that he gave no special treatment to GA for its supposed township project in Mabalacat, Pampanga when he was chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and the Pag-Ibig Fund.
De Castro told the Senate committee that GA was a regular program proponent and the only difference was the amount given to the developer by Pag-Ibig was bigger than usual at P5 billion.
Lee, through his lawyer Willie Rivera, said he got no special treatment from the government for his housing project in Mabalacat.
“We are just like all other developers. There was no special treatment,” Rivera quoted Lee as saying.
Rivera said Lee expressed willingness to attend the hearings of the Senate if only “to explain the real issues behind the accusations against us and our company by the current Pag-Ibig management.”
Lee also called on the Committee on Housing of the House of Representatives chaired by Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez “to seriously consider calling for similar hearings,” to “help mitigate issues involving inter-parliamentary courtesy with respect to the attendance of our honorable lawmakers from the House in any of the Senate hearings, if necessary.”
“We continue to expect fairness and justice at the Senate, but perhaps this scandal involving public housing now deserves a second look – an equally thorough, exhaustive and constructively critical review – by the people’s legislative district representatives,” Lee said in a statement issued through Rivera.
In the same statement, Lee denied defrauding Pag-Ibig and said all accounts have been settled.
Lee said the real issue is Pag-Ibig’s decision to unilaterally terminate its funding and collection agreements with GA.
He said the courts have already ruled that Pag-Ibig’s refusal to honor the provisions of the agreements was unjustified. – With Jose Rodel Clapano