Sandigan to banks: Testify on Luy's 19 accounts
MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan ordered banks to produce records on pork scam principal state witness Benhur Luy's 19 bank accounts.
In a subpoena issued Tuesday, July 22, the court's 1st division ordered 5 banks to send representatives to appear during a scheduled bail hearing of indicted plunderer Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. The bank representatives were directed to bring with them the bank records of Luy and to testify on them.
The hearing is set on Thursday, July 24, when Luy will likewise be called to the witness stand to attest to the diversion of Revilla's Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to ghost projects of dubious non-governmental organizations.
The order granted the request of lawyer Stephen David, legal counsel for alleged PDAF scam mastermind and Luy's former boss Janet Lim-Napoles, filed Monday, July 21.
David asked the court to issue a subpoena duces tecum – an order pertaining to the production of documents before the court – on the bank accounts of Luy, his mother and brother, and two other state witnesses.
The order was served Wednesday morning, July 23, to BDO Unibank Inc, Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co, Bank of the Philippine Islands, United Coconut Planters Bank, Landbank of the Philippines-SOGOD, and Landbank of the Philippines-DECS.
The bank records will supposedly show that the state witnesses themselves amassed millions from the scheme, said David. He said other documentary evidence such as articles of incorporation of the PDAF-funded NGOs point to Luy and the state witnesses – and not Napoles – as having participated in the scam.
Listed in David's request were 19 bank accounts under Luy's name, 3 under his brother Arthur's name, two under his mother Gertrudes' name, 3 under the name of state witness Merlina Suñas, and another 3 under the name of state witness Marina Sula.
The PDAF scam was first exposed to authorities by Luy, after he was rescued by National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents in March 2013. He was allegedly detained against his will by his two cousins, Napoles and her fugitive brother Reynald Lim, starting December 2012.
Luy kept records of Napoles' alleged illegal transactions, which now form part of the evidence in the PDAF scam cases.
Luy's forfeiture case
A set of Luy's and his parent's bank accounts, however, is already the subject of a forfeiture case before the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 22.
The case was filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the country's financial intelligence unit, through the Solicitor General.
The subject bank accounts of Luy and his parents are currently frozen due to an assets preservation order (APO) issued by the Manila RTC on March 25.
The order will stay until the resolution of the forfeiture case, where Luy would have to prove in court that his assets are not ill-gotten or illegally acquired.
In his case before the Manila court, Luy argued that he should be exempted from the state's seizure of assets that were allegedly gained from the PDAF scam.
Luy's lawyer Raji Mendoza said his client's status as a state witness who is immune from criminal prosecution over the PDAF scam exempts him from an assets freeze. (READ: Benhur Luy: Exempt me from assets freeze)
The Solicitor General, however, argued before the court that a forfeiture case is civil in nature. Luy's immunity from suit as a state witness covers criminal cases only, the government's lawyer said.
Mendoza, however, told the Manila court that the effect of an assets freeze is punitive in nature. He cited a Supreme Court (SC) ruling on the case against former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Manuel Cabal that tags as "criminal" property forfeiture proceedings.
He added that Luy worked for Napoles and gained his assets through the salary she gave him as her regular employee through the years.
In a motion assailing the APO before the Manila court, he said the half-a-million pesos in his client's dollar account was accumulated through the generosity of friends. (READ: Benhur Luy on freeze order: My assets are not from PDAF) – Rappler.com