Luy relieves Baligod as PDAF scam counsel
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Benhur Luy, the main whistleblower in the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam, relieved his counsel Levito Baligod for being too busy.
In the letter to Baligod dated Monday, March 3, Luy thanked the lawyer for his "time and effort" but said he has not had enough time for him.
"It has been a rough and rugged road for us, and for all you have done, I am eternally thankful. However, I have noticed your are very busy with your other advocacies and that is why I have decided to pursue this journey even without [you] guiding me," Luy said in the letter.
"It will not be easy though but this will mutually benefit us in the end…. With deep gratitude for our friendship, I formally release you from any obligation and/or contract to litigate on my behalf and to represent me as legal counsel effective today," he added.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Tuesday, March 4, confirmed the news and said Luy had been complaining about Baligod's lack of time for several weeks. She said she thought the two "would patch things up." (WATCH: Atty Levi Baligod: Where is the probe into #PDAFScam headed?)
"Of course I'm curious as to what led to this. The explanation of Benhur is he noticed that Atty Levi no longer has time for him. That's what he said. As you know, attorney-client relationship is a privilged matter and it is based primarily on trust and confidence and therefore it's the prerogative of the client to change his counsel," de Lima told reporters.
"Kung may iba bang dahilan, mahirap pakialaman yan because that's a privileged matter (If there's a different reason, that's hard to meddle with)," she added.
De Lima also said Luy will be replacing Baligod with 3-4 lawyers. For now, Baligod is still representing Merlina Suñas, another whistleblower.
As of time of publication, Baligod could not be reached.
Baligod, newly widowed when he took on Luy's case in early 2013, got engaged last January with a Leyte politician, Marilou Galenzoga. Those who know about this new relationship said Baligod had been in Baybay, his fiancée's home city, almost every week since after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated the place. He has also joined her legal team in her pending election cases.
Baligod has been Luy's counsel since the former personal assistant of Janet Lim Napoles decided to tell all about the pork barrel scam. The scam accuses Napoles of conniving with lawmakers to channel their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to Napoles' bogus non-governmental organizations in exchange for hefty kickbacks.
He was a co-complainant with the National Bureau of Investigation when it filed a plunder case against those involved in the pork barrel scam before the Office of the Ombudsman. De Lima said Baligod can choose to withdraw as co-complainant after being dropped by Luy.
Baligod also represented Luy in the serious illegal detention case he filed against Napoles and her brother, Reynald "Jojo" Lim.
In February 2013, Baligod agreed to help get the National Bureau of Investigation to rescue Luy, who, at the time, had been detained by Napoles since December 2012. Luy was finally rescued in March 2013. – Rappler.com