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Prosecutors oppose subpoenas on whistleblowers’ wealth records

Posted On 2014 Aug 16
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Senator Jinggoy Estrada arrives at the Sandiganbayan in Quezon City on Monday, June 30, for his arraignment over the plunder charges filed against him and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles in connection with the alleged P10-B pork barrel scam. (MNS photo)

Senator Jinggoy Estrada arrives at the Sandiganbayan in Quezon City on Monday, June 30, for his arraignment over the plunder charges filed against him and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles in connection with the alleged P10-B pork barrel scam. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — State prosecutors in the plunder and graft cases of Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Wednesday opposed the request of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles to subpoena bank, travel and real estate documents of whistleblowers in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam case.

In a seven page opposition penned by Deputy Special Prosecutor John Turalba, the prosecutors said the Request for the Issuance of Subpoena the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind filed wasn’t justified.

“A reading of the requests for subpoena for the [Bureau of Immigration], the [Land Registration Authority], and the [Land Transportation Office] readily shows that no reason or justification therefor was advanced,” the prosecution panel said.

“Truth be told, the request is unnecessary and the subject matter therefor irrelevant, considering that Benhur Luy, Arthur Luy, Abegail Umali, Gertrudes Luy, Marina Sula and Merlina Suñas are not the accused in the case,” it added.

Napoles, who is accused of masterminding the scam that saw billions of pesos in public funds diverted to bogus foundations she controlled, is also charged with serious illegal detention by whistleblower and her former trusted aide Benhur Luy.

Napoles is facing three counts of plunder and multiple counts of graft for allegedly masterminding the massive fraud.

In their August 11 request for Subpoena, Napoles’ lawyers asked the Sandiganbayan to compel the BI to provide the travel history and record of Luy and other whistleblowers.

They also asked the LRA to produce the records of real property registered under Luy and other whistleblowers and the LTO to submit the records of witnesses’ registered vehicles.

In their subpoena, Napoles’ lawyer Atty. Stephen David said Napoles’ defense lawyers wanted to examine specific bank records and transactions from the Bank of the Philippine Islands, Metropolitan bank and Trust Company, Uniter Coconut Planters Bank, Citibank, Philippine Savings Bank, and Land Bank of the Philippines, for the bank accounts of Benhur K. Luy, Arthur K. Luy, Abegail B. Umali, Gertrudes Luy, Marina C. Sula and Merlina P. Suñas.

But the prosecution blocked the request, saying it was a violation of the whistleblower’s rights.

“[They] are undeniably prosecution witnesses who enjoy and should be afforded the rights and obligations provided by the rules of court,” it said.

“They are not even defendants of the instant case. Neither is there any allegation that they have received any part of the ill gotten wealth purportedly amassed by the accused. Thus, the disclosure of their bank accounts, is violative of the law protecting the confidentiality of bank deposits,” the panel added, saying that whatever money the whistleblowers have in their personal bank accounts were not subject of the investigation.

“The money in the bank accounts of the whistleblowers cannot be considered as the subject matter of the present plunder case,” it said.

The prosecution also called out David for what they deemed were unnecessary requirements from the whistleblowers.

“At this stage of the proceedings, when the prosecution has just started presenting its case, there is neither need not necessity for the records or documents which presumably will form part of the defense,” the panel said. (MNS)

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