MANILA (3RD UPDATE) - The principal whistleblower in the "pork barrel scam" cases, Benhur Luy, has dropped Atty. Levito Baligod as his lawyer.
In a one-page letter to Baligod dated March 3, Luy said he came up with the decision because Baligod has been too busy attending to "other advocacies."
"It has been a rough and rugged road for us, and for all you have done, I am eternally thankful. However, I have noticed you were very busy with your other advocacies that is why I have decided to pursue this journey even without you guiding me. It will not be easy through 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, 03 March 2014," Luy said.
Luy thanked Baligod for seeing to it that his rights are being protected.
Baligod helped Luy obtain Witness Protection Program (WPP) coverage, and also assisted Luy during his appearances before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings on the "pork barrel scam."
UNRESOLVED DIFFERENCES, LACK OF TIME
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima bared that Luy has been feeling neglected for weeks now. De Lima said she hoped these would be patched up, but, apparently, it did not happen.
"Dati ko na itong narinig na parang nagtatampo na si Benhur na parang wala nang oras sa kanya si Atty. Levi. That was a few weeks ago or several weeks ago, but I thought mapa-patch up whatever yung difference sa kanila."
"Kung may iba pang dahilan, mahirap pakialaman yan because that's privileged matter, prerogative po yan ng isang kliyente kung gusto niyang palitan ang kanyang abugado."
De Lima stressed that it is Luy's prerogative to choose his own counsel.
"Mayroon na daw bagong lawyers... 3 or 4 young lawyers, who will represent Benhur from now on."
"As you know, attorney-client relationship is a privileged mater and it is based primarily on trust and confidence, and, therefore, it's the prerogative of the client to change his counsel."
CASE WILL PROCEED
The justice chief doused fears that this matter will affect the prosecution of the pork barrel scam and Malampaya Fund cases.
She stressed that the principal figure is Luy, not any of the lawyers representing the whistleblowers and witnesses.
"I don't think may epekto ito kasi ang witness naman dito is Benhur. Atty. Levi is the counsel. Although mayroon pa siyang (Baligod) isang client, si Merlina Sunas," De Lima said.
De Lima has yet to confer with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Special Task Force, the public complainant in these cases, and Baligod, on whether Baligod will decide to withdraw as a co-complainant.
Aside from being Luy and Sunas' lawyer, Baligod is a private complainant in the "pork barrel scam" and Malampaya Fund mess cases.
BALIGOD: NO HARD FEELINGS
Baligod, meanwhile, said he has no ill feelings towards Luy.
"Maganda yung nangyayari dahil nakikita natin na maraming mga abogado ang interested na mabilang dito sa ating adhikain na mapanagot yung dapat mapanagot. At ang naiwan na lamang na trabaho ni Benhur ay yung magtestify sa Sandiganbayan kung sakaling isampa yung kaso," he said.
Baligod admitted he has been busy with other witnesses and concerns because of the number of lawmakers involved and the vastness of the pork barrel and Malampaya fund scams.
"Bilang private complainant, meron akong obligasyon na mapalakas yung mga kaso. So dahil natapos na natin na makuha kay Benhur yung mga impormasyon na nalalaman niya, ako naman ay nagfocus sa ibang mga potential witnesses para mabuo na natin yung chain of evidence na sinasabi natin," he said.
Even if he is no longer Luy's lawyer, Baligod said he will still be a private complainant in the PDAF and Malampaya scams. - with a report from Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News