MANILA, Philippines – The hard disk drive of Benhur Luy, principal witness in the pork barrel scam involving the misuse of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund was tampered with.
This is what the camp of detained Senator Jinggoy Estrada wants to establish before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division, which is conducting a bail hearing related to the senator’s plunder case.
The hard disk drive supposedly contains financial transactions and records of the JLN Corporation of Janet Lim Napoles, the businesswoman suspected of masterminding the illegal transactions with lawmakers and fake non-governmental organizations. It also has copies of endorsement letters, disbursement records, and memoranda of agreement with lawmakers.
Estrada’s camp said in a statement they believe the hard disk drive “has been heavily tampered with as exposed by the forensic examination of the same, and as a result of authorities failing to observe proper procedures in securing and preserving the integrity of electronic evidence.”
Estrada’s lawyer Paul Mar Arias ended on Wednesday his cross-examination of Dario Sabilano, special investigator of the the National Bureau of Investigation’s Cybercrime Division. It was Sabilano who conducted the forensic examination of Luy’s drive.
Sabilano brought to the court the disk drive as requested by the defense. It had been with the NBI since January 27, 2014.
The Supreme Court in February denied Estrada's earlier request for a temporary restraining order against the Sandiganbayan's ruling admitting Luy's ledger as evidence despite his plea for its exclusion.
Questions on handling, revisions
Arias asked if the NBI followed “internationally-recognized protocol” in securing and documenting relevant information pertaining to Luy’s drive.
Arias said the drive did not bear the name and signature of the collecting agent, the date of place of its collection, or any standard information that should be on electronic gadgets being subjected to forensic investigation. Neither did the drive go through physical inspection.
Protocol dictates that the drive should have been “properly labeled and bound by restricted access to preserve its evidentiary integrity.”
Luy, according to the defense, was able to access and print files from the drive even during the NBI’s investigation. Sabilano agreed it was a “possible breach of protocol in handling evidence.”
Arias also pointed out that based on the forensic exam results, the files in the drive were sourced from several computers and that Luy was not the sole author of the files. This disproves the earlier testimony of Luy that only he and Napoles had access to the computer, which was password-protected.
Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo earlier warned the counsels against referring to the source disk as the “original” disk as the chain of custody could not yet be established.
Arias pointed out alterations in some file entries, in particular, a “Gregory Ong-BDO check” entry. When the same file was printed before the Fifth Division’s clerk of court in November 2014, the entry had been changed to “Ong-BDO check”.
Earlier in June, the anti-graft court ordered the printing and submission of files in Luy's drive.
Sabilano, according to the press statement, admitted to the revision.
NBI forensic report
Citing the NBI forensic report, the Estrada camp also found the following:
Estrada spokesperson Alexis Abastillas-Suarez said the defense was able to establish that because of improper handling by the NBI, the Luy disk drive has “become unreliable and unbelievable, and its contents inaccurate, [upon] which the prosecution largely based their allegations against Senator Estrada.”
Their own forensic exam revealed that the files had been altered “and/or manufactured” to suit the intent of the NBI and the Department of Justice, Suarez added.
Estrada is charged with plunder and graft for allegedly pocketing P183 million and misusing a total of P278 million from his PDAF. He is also accused of illegally enriching himself through Napoles' illegal schemes. – Rappler.com