MANILA, Philippines – Maintaining that it was the whistleblowers and not their client Janet Lim Napoles who benefitted from the pork barrel scam, lawyers of the alleged mastermind sought for the disclosure in court of state witness Benhur Luy’s travel records and 4 more bank accounts.
Napoles’ lawyers asked the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s 1st division on Friday, August 1, to order the Bureau of Immigration to produce Luy’s travel records from 2004 to 2013.
These supposedly cover the period when the whistleblower was acting as a finance officer of Napoles, who is suspected to have controlled non-governmental organizations that siphoned off the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers for ghost projects.
In a separate manifestation also filed Friday, the Napoles camp also requested that records for 4 more bank accounts of Luy be produced before the said division. This is in addition to the 19 Luy accounts earlier listed by the Napoles camp.
The court had issued a subpoena on the 19 accounts, but Luy’s camp assailed the subpoena. The court has yet to rule on the matter.
A subpoena was likewise requested on the bank accounts of Luy’s relatives, as well as those of state witnesses Marina Sula and Merlina Suñas.
Credibility of witnesses
In their sworn affidavit, the state witnesses said Napoles used them as presidents of the NGOs that siphoned off millions in lawmakers’ PDAF. They claim it was Napoles who ultimately gained financially from the scam for controlling and making these NGOs appear legitimate.
Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David, however, explained that the travel and bank history of Luy and his co-witnesses would show that it was them and not Napoles who benefitted from the PDAF scam.
David explained that the witnesses could easily fabricate their testimony to implicate Napoles, but the documents their camp sought in court would show if the witnesses are telling the truth.
Luy testified in court during the bail hearing of opposition senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr that Napoles instructed her employees to falsify documents and affix signatures as fake beneficiaries of PDAF.
Luy’s bank records are sought in connection with bail hearing of Revilla, who is facing plunder charges over the scam. Napoles is a co-accused in the plunder cases of 3 senators that are being heard by 3 separate divisions of the anti-graft court.
David said the admission by Luy of falsifying documents shows that their theory that the witnesses were the ones operating the scam is not far from probable.
He further questioned why Luy would still assail the subpoena if the whistleblower is indeed not hiding anything.
Irrelevant to the case
In an opposition to Luy’s motion to quash the disputed subpoeana, Napoles’ camp said Luy should “not be spared” in the search for justice.
But Luy’s lawyer Raji Mendoza earlier explained that it is the accused’s accounts and travel records that must be examined and not those of the witnesses.
Dennis Manalo, lawyer for another state witness Ruby Tuason, likewise said the examination of the state witnesses’ accounts can be done by the prosecution team on its own. This examination is only for the purpose of establishing the money trail or tracking where the plundered PDAF proceeds went.
Manalo insisted that presenting state witnesses’ bank records in court as evidence against Revilla would be irrelevant at this point.
As state witnesses, Luy, Sula and Suñas are immune from criminal prosecution over the PDAF scam. Mendoza earlier said the disclosure sought in court is already a form of harassment against Luy, who is already burdened of testifying for the state.
Luy’s 19 accounts whose records were earlier ordered produced before the court are covered by a separate civil case concerning alleged ill-acquired assets from the PDAF scam.
They are frozen by virtue of an asset preservation order issued by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 22, which is hearing Luy’s forfeiture case.
Luy revealed the PDAF scam – massive diversion of lawmakers’ development funds to ghost projects – when he was rescued by state authorities in March 2013. He was allegedly detained against his will by Napoles starting December 2012. – Rappler.com