Bank records of Benhur Luy, other pork scam witnesses soon open for Estrada’s scrutiny
MANILA, Philippines — The bank accounts of Benhur Luy and other whistleblowers in the pork barrel scam will soon be open to scrutiny to be consistent with Anti-Money Laundering Council’s move in conducting an inquiry into the bank records of detained senator Jinggoy Estrada.
During Estrada’s bail hearing Monday on the plunder case filed against him, Associate Justice Alex Gesmundo asked AMLC’s lawyer Roland Villaluz if they would also allow Estrada to access the bank records of whistleblowers now that the AMLC gave the Ombudsman access on Estrada’s bank accounts that purportedly received kickbacks from the scam.
Villaluz said the AMLC will allow the defense, compelling Gesmundo to say that Estrada’s motion to subpoena the whistleblowers bank records moot and academic.
“(The AMLC) is now willing to show these accounts… This manifestation is now moot and academic because (AMLC) has allowed them access already,” Gesmundo said.
Estrada’s lawyers were persistent in prying into the whistleblowers’ bank accounts after the AMLC made an inquiry report revealing that Estrada received in his bank accounts and through conduits millions of kickbacks from accused mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
In Estrada’s motion for subpoena, the detained lawmaker asked the court to compel the AMLC to bring the bank records of principal whistleblower Luy, and other witnesses Marina Sula, Marina Sula, Merlina Sunas, Gertrudes Luy, and Mary Arlene Baltazar.
Estrada’s camp wants to subpoena the bank records, which include “any and all documents relating to the inquiry, examination, or investigation of any and all deposits, investments, and related accounts with any and all banking institutions, non-bank financial institutions, and other covered institutions, non-bank financial institutions, and other covered institutions, and other monetary instruments and properties…”
The prosecutors had opposed the move, saying Estrada did not even specify the types of documents pertaining to the witnesses’ bank accounts, making it obvious that he is on a “fishing expedition.”
The panel also said under the law, bank deposits are protected under a confidentiality clause unless the account holders are respondents of litigation.
“The subject matter of this case is the ill-gotten wealth in the amount of P183.79 million accumulated, amassed or acquired by Estrada either by himself or in connivance with other persons … It is not the transaction, money, deposits, or investments of (witnesses) which are the subject matter of the proceedings…” the opposition read.
In an interview after the hearing, Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano remained confident that an inquiry into the whistleblowers’ bank records would not reveal dirty money obtained in the scam.
He added that any revelations on the witnesses’ bank accounts will not affect the case because they were granted immunity by the Ombudsman from charges related to the scam.
Senator Estrada said allowing them access to witnesses’ bank accounts should have been granted a long time ago.
But he also lamented the court’s decision to still allow the AMLC witness to present the report after the justices junked his motion to suppress and exclude the AMLC report as evidence.
Dapat matagal nang ganoon. Dapat matagal na ring pinayagan ng AMLC na i-divulge din ang accounts ng mga involved dito sa PDAF scam,” Estrada said.
“(But) I’m quite disappointed by the decision of the court (allowing the AMLC witness to present the report), but I have no other choice but to respect the decision of the court,” he added.