MANILA - Is there a brewing rift between lawyer Levito Baligod and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in the pork barrel scam investigation?
On Monday, Baligod described as "lacking in professionalism" the release of the letter of whistle-blower Merlina Suñas informing him that he will no longer be her lawyer in the pork barrel scam.
Baligod said he had already talked to Suñas about her getting a new lawyer since he will be busy working on the filing of charges against the third batch of respondents in the pork barrel scam.
He also said he will be forming a Sandiganbayan Watch once the first batch of cases in the pork barrel scam is filed before the anti-graft court.
Baligod said there was no ill will between him and Suñas since they had already agreed that Dominic Garen will be her new lawyer.
"Wala namang tampuhan dahil napag-usapan naman namin ito," he told radio DZMM.
However, the lawyer also complained about the "overexcitement" of some officials to release information that he had been dropped as a lawyer by at least two whistle-blowers.
Baligod noted that Suñas asked the National Bureau of Investigation to give him the letter since there has to be confirmation that the client is getting a new lawyer.
Instead, he said the private letter was opened, photocopied and distributed to the media.
"Medyo nawawalan ng professionalism ang government officials natin...Hindi po yun para ilathala o ipamigay sa ibang tao dahil para sa akin ang sulat na yan," he said.
"Instead na iabot nila sa akin ay inabot nila sa ibang tao at yung ibang tao pa ang nagdistribute sa media po at binabasa sa publiko ang pribadong sulat ng kliyente sa abogado niya. Sa dalawang pagkakataon, mukhang sumobra yung excitement ng ilang opisyal natin diyan," he added.
Baligod said the same thing happened when he was dropped as a lawyer by whistle-blower Benhur Luy. He said he had earlier dismissed as an oversight the Department of Justice's announcement of Luy's decision to drop him as counsel.
"Inulit na naman nila. Kapag inuulit-ulit mo ang isang pagkakamali, sinasadya mo na yun. Hindi na oversight yun," he said.
In her letter to Baligod, Sunas did not give any reason why she is dropping him as her lawyer. She thanked Baligod for "standing beside her despite all difficulties."
It was de Lima who announced that Attorney Dominic Garen will now represent Sunas.
De Lima had also announced that Luy would be dropping Baligod as lawyer in the Napoles scam.
The justice chief said Luy "had been feeling neglected for weeks" and that the two were unable to settle their difference.
"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," she said in an earlier interview.
Baligod said he has no hard feelings against Luy. He said he will still be a private complainant in the PDAF and Malampaya scams.