Sandigan denies Jinggoy Estrada’s bid to block AMLC report
MANILA, Philippines—The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division on Monday denied detained Senator Jinggoy Estrada’s bid to suppress the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report on his bank accounts that purportedly shows how he received kickbacks from the pork barrel scam.
The prosecution scored a win after several attempts by the defense to block the presentation of the AMLC witness.
The Estrada camp’s confidentiality claim is misplaced as the AMLC report was made in accordance with the AMLC’s authority to look into bank accounts believed to be engaged in illicit activities, Associate Justice Alex Gesmundo said during Monday’s bail hearing.
Gesmundo also said the confidentiality harped on by Estrada under the bank secrecy law is subject to exceptions, such as the right of the government to look into alleged illegal bank transactions.
“You well recognize that there are exceptions to bank secrecy. The law is not absolute. It is the right of the state to inquire (into bank records),” Gesmundo said.
The 90-page AMLC report shows how Estrada purportedly hid his wealth in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Networth and how he received kickbacks through conduits from accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
In a three-page resolution, the Sandiganbayan denied Estrada’s motion to suppress the AMLC report and exclude it as evidence for lack of merit.
The resolution also said that Estrada’s confidentiality claims do not apply in the case.
Estrada cited the confidentiality clause pertaining to proceedings for civil forfeiture, asset preservation and freezing of monetary instruments or property, while his case is for plunder, the antigraft court said.
The court also cited a Supreme Court decision providing exceptions to the rule of absolute confidentiality, which include, among others, examinations of bank accounts that was made upon order of a competent court in cases of bribery or dereliction of duty of public officials.
In Estrada’s case, the AMLC inquiry report was conducted after due approval by the Court of Appeals, the resolution said.
Another exception is for bank inquiry on money that is subject to litigation, which includes in this case the millions of money believed to be accumulated due to the pork barrel scam, the court said.
The court also debunked Estrada’s claims invoking his constitutional right to privacy, saying the bank inquiry report was made pursuant to state-sanctioned laws such as the Bank Secrecy Law and the Ombudsman Act.
In an interview after the hearing, Estrada lamented the court’s decision but was elated with its ruling to allow his team to look into the whistleblowers’ bank accounts.
“I’m quite disappointed by the decision of the court (allowing the AMLC report), but I have no other choice but to respect the decision of the court,” Estrada said.
“Dapat matagal na ring pinayagan ng AMLC na i-divulge din ang accounts ng mga involved dito sa PDAF scam,” he said.
During the previous hearing, the defense pulled a fast one on the prosecution after it filed a motion to suppress the evidence. The motion blocked anew the presentation of AMLC witness Orlando Negradas.
In an earlier hearing, the prosecution also surprised the defense when it presented the AMLC witness even when the defense was not notified about it.
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