SC junks Jinggoy Estrada bid to quash evidence
MANILA, Philippines–The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a bid by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to have the high court stop the Sandiganbayan from admitting as evidence the disbursement reports of a company owned by Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
In an en banc session, the high court instead ordered the antigraft court to comment on the certiorari petition that Estrada brought before the high tribunal on Monday, in which he said the Sandiganbayan was violating the Anti-Cybercrime Act by allowing the presentation in court of JLN Corp.’s daily cash and check disbursement reports obtained from the hard drive of whistle-blower Benhur Luy.
Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te told a press briefing Tuesday that the high court had denied Estrada’s request but required the respondents to comment on the petition within 10 days.
Estrada, one of three senators detained on plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel scam, had impleaded the Sandiganbayan for its “refusal to suppress or exclude evidence” that Luy had presented against him.
The senator is accused of pocketing P183.79 million in kickbacks by channeling his pork barrel allocations to the bogus nongovernment organizations controlled by Napoles, who in turn allegedly delivered a percentage of the diverted sums back to the senator.
The disbursement reports are known to show evidence that Estrada and his staff, including Pauline Labayen, Carl Dominic Labayen and Juan Tan Ng, had allegedly received kickbacks from JLN Corp., according to an investigation by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.
In Estrada’s bail hearings at the Sandiganbayan, Luy testified that he had encoded the cash and check disbursement reports on the alleged transactions between Napoles and several lawmakers, including Estrada.
Luy also testified that he copied the files from a company computer onto his hard drive, which he later handed over the National Bureau of Investigation Cybercrime Investigation Unit as part of the investigation into the pork barrel, officially known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund, scam.
In earlier testimony, Luy told the court that Estrada’s mother, former Sen. Loi Ejercito, was also one of the lawmaker clients of Napoles. Ejercito’s name was reflected in the disbursement reports under the code name “Inay,” he said.
In his petition, Estrada questioned Luy’s ownership of the hard drive and insisted that its “access, collection and disclosure” without a court warrant were violations of the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
He said the files were in the hard drive and its contents were inadmissible as evidence in any court proceeding under the Cybercrime Law.
The senator also said the antigraft court committed a grave abuse of discretion and violated his constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure in allowing the presentation of the files in court.
Apart from Estrada, Senators Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile are also in detention and being tried in the Sandiganbayan for their alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
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