SC orders AMLC to explain probe of Jinggoy Estrada’s accounts
The Supreme Court has ordered the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to explain its inquiry into the bank accounts of Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and his wife, Ma. Presentacion Vitug-Ejercito.
In a one-page resolution dated June 16, 2015, which was signed by clerk of court Enriqueta Vidal and released on Thursday, the Supreme Court en banc gave the AMLC up to 10 days to file its comment on the pleading filed by the couple.
“Acting on the petition for certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus (with prayer for temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction), the court resolved without giving due course to the petition, to require the respondents to comment therein within 10 days from notice hereof,” the resolution stated.
Estrada is currently undergoing trial before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan for his involvement in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Last May, he and his wife asked the high court to stop the AMLC report from being used as evidence in the case.
The couple said the AMLC report should be disregarded because the bank inquiry orders from AMLC to inspect their bank accounts were issued “ex parte” or without giving them notice.
In his petition, Estrada told the high court that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in setting aside his motion for the exclusion as prosecution evidence of the AMLC’s “Inquiry Report on the Bank Transactions related to the Alleged Involvement of Sen. Jose ‘Jinggoy’ Estrada in the PDAF Scam.”
Estrada said he and his wife’s “constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure,” among others, were violated by the AMLC’s action.
He also pointed out that the Sandiganbayan violated the existing bank secrecy law, adding that his right to privacy “extends to include an individual’s financial privacy rights.”
Estrada also claimed that the AMLC report was made from 2005 up to 2012, before the Section 11 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act was amended in June 2012, through Republic Act No. 10167, to allow ex-parte bank inquiries. Hence, he said, she should not be covered because the law could not be retroactive in application.
“[B]ecause most of the bank accounts subject of the AMLC inquiries were opened prior to the enactment of RA 10167, the old Section 11 should apply. Thus, the proper procedure should have been that the relevant bank inquiry orders should not have been issued without notice being given to the owner of the bank accounts,” he said.
In addition, the senator claimed that AMLC was conducting a “fishing expedition” after including other related accounts in its inquiry.
“The disclosure of ‘related accounts’ imposed by the amendment to Section 11 of the AMLA is clearly a ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ obtained by the fishing investigation conducted by the AMLC as part of the objective to fish for evidence which may be used against [me],” his petition read.
The AMLC report, if admitted as evidence, could be used by the prosecution to prove that Estrada got kickbacks worth more than P50 million, which would be tantamount to plunder and punishable by life imprisonment. SFM
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