SC junks Jinggoy bid to exclude Benhur testimony in PDAF case

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 25 2017 05:34 PM

MANILA - The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied with finality the plea of former Senator Jinggoy Estrada to exclude the testimony of “pork barrel” scam primary whistleblower Benhur Luy in his plunder trial before the Sandiganbayan for the alleged misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Sitting en banc, the high court junked Estrada’s motion for reconsideration of its Jan. 24 resolution “for not having raised any new and substantive arguments to merit a reconsideration.”

The high court also denied Estrada’s bid for the suppression and exclusion as evidence of the cash/check disbursement reports presented by the prosecution.

In its assailed resolution, the high court had ruled that there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the anti-graft court in allowing prosecution witness Luy’s testimony and admitting disbursement reports as part of the case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman.

In his petition, Estrada claimed that such evidence were obtained in violation of his constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure, and were thus inadmissible as evidence. 

He specifically questioned JLN (Janet Lim Napoles) Corporation files Luy had encoded, copied, and surrendered to the Ombudsman.

The high court ruled that since Luy is a private individual, Estrada cannot invoke the above-stated right, as the Constitution's bar on unlawful searches and seizures covers only government agents and law enforcers.

The SC also said that state witnesses, such as Luy, are granted immunity under Republic Act (RA) No. 6981, also known as the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act, so they may freely testify.

The immunity granted Luy was intended "to embolden him to testify despite the threats of criminal suit, and to enable him to help the government with his knowledge of the matters relevant to the PDAF issues,” the SC said in the January resolution.

Estrada is accused of allegedly pocketing P183.79-million in kickbacks from the alleged scam mastermind, the now jailed Janet Lim Napoles, for allocating portions of his PDAF to bogus foundations and/or non-government organizations linked to the businesswoman.