Sandigan upholds freeze order on Jinggoy’s alleged pork loot
THE Sandiganbayan Fifth Division upheld with finality its order temporarily freezing P184 million in assets believed to be the loot of detained Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada in the pork barrel scam.
In a resolution, the antigraft court denied Estrada’s motion for reconsideration on its ruling for lack of merit.
The denial of the plea paves the way for the court to order a preliminary attachment, which has an effect of temporary freeze order to prevent the accused from disposing of his properties in the course of his plunder case.
Estrada had appealed to reverse the court’s decision granting the prosecution’s request to garnish his assets worth P183.79 million, or equivalent to his alleged kickbacks according to principal whistleblower Benhur Luy.
In an earlier resolution, the court agreed with the prosecution that there is a “sufficient ground of attachment” based on the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report that the senator closed four of his bank accounts containing P76.4 million at the height of the pork barrel scam.
The same report also said Estrada used alleged conduits to get kickbacks from Janet Lim-Napoles.
In the motion, prosecutors said there is a need to preserve Estrada’s alleged kickbacks in the course of the court hearings to protect the interests of the state in forfeiture cases and to prevent the concealment of ill-gotten wealth.
“Given the very high likelihood that Estrada indeed had a hand in the plunder of millions of pesos in public funds , there is an imperative need to secure as much of his property as possible in order to cover his liability for his alleged loot,” the motion said.
Among the properties to be garnished are Estrada’s seven vehicles (Range Rover Evoque, Ford Mark III Van, Nissan Homy, Foton Tornado, Honda CRV, Chevrolet Suburban and Jeep Wrangler), six condominium units in San Juan and Quezon city, five parcels of agricultural and residential lands, two residential lots in Estrada’s residence in Corinthian Hills and Loyola Grand Villas, and two houses in Corinthian Hills and in Quezon city.
Also for garnishment are Estrada and his family relatives’ shares of stocks in Millennium Cinema, E-Quantum Intelligence C T Scan Lab Corp., Zirkoh Greenhills, S-E-N-J-I Corp., H.K. Choi, Quick Choi, Kate N Precy, Masang Pinoy Food Specialist, Bistro Bar, and Hathaway Realty Holdings.
In his appeal, Estrada had claimed that the prosecution cannot use against him the closing of his bank accounts at the height of the pork barrel scam investigation because this happened before the filing of the plunder case.
The court said it is precisely the intention of the garnishment to prevent the situation of concealment of funds before the filing of the case.
“The Court agrees with the prosecution because the Rules do not require that the concealment, removal, etc. of funds and properties be done after the case has already been filed,” the court added.
Estrada had also claimed he is not an accountable officer in the disbursement of his Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF). But the court said the case information did not refer to accountable officers as being charged for plunder
“What it plainly requires is that the action be based on a claim for money or property embezzled or fraudulently misapplied or converted to the public officer’s own use in the course of his employment,” the court said.
Estrada had also claimed he was not given enough time to comment on the prosecution’s motion for garnishment because it was approved by the court two weeks later. But the court said it is only mindful of Estrada’s right to due process so he could file a counterbond or a motion to quash the writ.
“As movant has not filed a counterbond and as his arguments herein are unmeritorious, there is therefore no compelling reason to lift the attachment while the main case is pending,” the court said. AC
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