Luy bank accounts off limits to Napoles lawyers–Sandiganbayan
MANILA, Philippines–The Sandiganbayan on Thursday barred the lawyers of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles from scrutinizing the bank accounts of primary whistle-blower Benhur Luy and his fellow witnesses.
In a six-page resolution, the antigraft court’s First Division granted the prosecution’s motion to quash the subpoena the tribunal had issued on July 22 ordering officials of five commercial banks to present documents pertaining to bank accounts owned by Luy and the other whistle-blowers.
Luy and the others had worked for Napoles who is said to be the brains behind the diversion of P10 billion in congressional pork barrel funds of several legislators to her dummy foundations.
In prohibiting Napoles’ lawyers from looking into the bank accounts, the court agreed with the whistle-blowers that the defense lawyers had failed to specify the documents they wanted the bank officials to present at the bail hearing of Sen. Bong Revilla, one of the accused legislators.
It also upheld the witnesses’ argument that allowing Napoles’ lawyers to access their bank accounts would violate Republic Act No. 1405, the bank secrecy law.
“Unless the bank secrecy act is repealed or amended, the legal order is obliged to conserve the absolutely confidential nature of Philippine bank deposits,” the court said in the resolution penned by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz, First Division chair and concurred in by Associate Justices Rodolfo Ponferrada and Rafael Lagos.
Besides Luy’s accounts, Napoles’ lawyers had sought to examine the bank deposits of his mother, Gertrudes Luy, and brother Arthur Luy, and of fellow witnesses Merlina Suñas and Marina Sula.
Sought for comment, Napoles’ lead counsel Stephen David said they would seek a reconsideration of the court’s decision, noting that Luy had admitted in his testimony he received at least P3 million for his participation as president of one of Napoles’ bogus foundations.
“That is not my loss, that’s the loss of the Filipino people. People want to know the truth about Benhur’s bank accounts, we won’t [be able to] know that anymore,” David told reporters.
“If [Luy is] honest and [if he] wants to cooperate with the government… he should admit how much he really earned and he should return it to the government,” he added.
Speaking with the Inquirer, David said Napoles had told him that Luy could have pocketed more than P100 million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers.
Citing the law, the Sandiganbayan said bank accounts may be opened only if the depositor had issued a written permission; in impeachment cases; in cases involving bribery or dereliction of duty by public officials; and if the amounts “deposited or invested are the subject matter of the litigation.”
“None of the foregoing exceptions are present in this case. Obviously, the depositor-witnesses do not sanction the production and disclosure of documents that will expose their bank accounts,” the court said.–With Nancy Carvajal
Originally posted: 11:55 am | Thursday, August 28th, 2014
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