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Manila court freezes for now Gigi Reyes' bank accounts

MANILA, Philippines – Lawyer Jessica Lucila "Gigi" Reyes and 9 others were prohibited by the court from touching select assets in their name until June 26, 2014. 

The Provisional Asset Preservation Order (PAPO) issued June 6 by the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 22 also covers other individuals suspected to have gained financially in the illegal siphoning of lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to non-governmental organizations linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. 

The 10 respondents are prevented from making any "transaction, transfer, removal, conversion, concealment or other disposition" of their subject bank accounts. Covered by the PAPO were two of Reyes' bank accounts – one with P500,000  and another with only P6,700.

In the 8-page order, Manila RTC Branch Executive Judge Marino dela Cruz Jr found "probable cause that the subject bank accounts and/or monetary instruments are related to unlawful activities warranting a PAPO."

Dela Cruz said "...most, if not all of the account holders have no legitimate source of income, that would justify the huge funds transacted in their bank accounts."

A PAPO is in effect for 20 days. A court hearing was scheduled Wednesday, June 18, on whether to convert the PAPO into an Asset Preservation Order (APO), which is similar in effect, but without an immediate expiration.

The Manila court is hearing the forfeiture cases of Napoles, principal state witness Benhur Luy, and other key players in the corruption scandal. It earlier issued an APO on Napoles' and Luy's assets. (READ: Napoles family, 'pork' scam suspects can't touch assets)

The cases were filed by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) through the Solicitor General. The AMLC is the country's financial intelligence unit.

The diversion of lawmakers' PDAF to bogus projects was allegedly masterminded by Napoles, whose NGOs served on paper as beneficiaries of the funds.

The sham was revealed by Luy, a former employee of Napoles-owned JLN Corporation. Luy kept accounting records of Napoles' illegal transactions.

Along with opposition senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Reyes faces plunder and graft charges before anti-graft court Sandiganbayan. With the cases of her former boss Enrile, her cases were assigned to the court's 3rd division.

She has asked the court to suspend the proceedings in her cases. Her lawyer Anacleto Diaz said his client was merely "caught in the crossfire of political giants." (READ: Gigi Reyes confident PDAF case will be suspended)

AMLC investigation

In its investigation, the AMLC said the bank accounts covered by the June 6 PAPO were used as conduits to launder funds or proceeds from the PDAF scam.  

The AMLC reviewed Luy's ledger and found that significant deposits were made in the bank accounts on the day or a few days after cash rebates were released by JLN Corporation.

It said P21 million was deposited in Reyes' account with the Security Bank on June 16, 2010.

Based on Luy's records, Napoles' driver-bodyguard John Raymund de Asis delivered to Reyes the amount of P30 million in cash sourced from the JLN Corporation 5 days prior to the deposit. De Asis is also charged with plunder and graft over the scam.

The huge deposits in Reyes' accounts are not commensurate to "her salary as a partner in a law firm," the AMLC said.

Bank accounts of Pauline Labayen, Estrada's appointments staff, were also covered by the June 6 PAPO. Fund increases in her accounts were likewise found to be too large for her salary as a government employee.

Also covered were bank accounts of the following individuals: Samuel Dangwa, Rhoderick Ebeun Reyes, Alfonso Garcia Napoles, Caesar Ronnie Fernandez Ordoyo, Catherine Mae Canlas Santos a.k.a. Kristina Midel Santos, Jose Emmanuel Lim, and Pedro Dumon Sepulveda Jr a.k.a. Florentina Seachon Sepulveda. – Rappler.com