By REY G. PANALIGAN
The Court of Appeals (CA) has allowed the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to inquire into and examine the bank accounts of Janet Lim-Napoles and those of her relatives, employees, and non-government organizations (NGOs) affiliated with her firm.
Napoles, alleged brains in the reported P10-billion “pork barrel“ scam, surrendered to President Aquino on Wednesday. She is now detained at the Makati City jail on orders of the city’s regional trial court (RTC) which issued the arrest order against her and brother Reynald Lim who is still at large.
Napoles and her brother had been charged with a non-bailable offense of serious illegal detention by the parents of whistleblower Benhur Luy.
The inquiry and examination of the bank accounts were requested by AMLC following the six-month freeze order issued on those accounts, also on petition filed by the council.
“Wherefore, herein application for bank inquiry is granted. The Anti-Money Laundering Council is authorized to inquire into or examine, for a period of five months herefrom,“ the CA said in a resolution written by Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro and concurred in by Associate Justices Remedios Salazar Fernando and Danton Bueser.
At the same time, the CA directed the AMLC “to submit a report to this Court within 10 days from the expiration of the said five-month period to make such examination and/or inquiry.“
Aside from the accounts of Napoles, and those of her family members, relatives and office staff, and non-government organizations (NGOs) identified with her JLN company, the freeze order also covered the accounts of whistleblower Benhur Luy and his parents Arthur and Gertrudes, and the accounts of another whistleblower Merlina Sunas.
Also frozen were the accounts of Jo Christine Napoles, Jaime Garcia Napoles, James Christopher Lim Napoles, Jean/Jane Catherine Lim Napoles, John Christian Lim Napoles, Reynald Lim, Ronald Francisco Lim, Evelyn Ditchon de Leon, Marina Sula, Simonette Briones, Rosita Kawson Co, and Ma. Winnie M. Villanueva.
The freeze order covered 415 accounts 344 banks accounts, 66 insurance policies and five others which were probably credit card accounts.
Out of the 415 accounts, 107 are in the name of Napoles, also known as Jannet Napoles Lim or Jenny Lim. The accounts are in 17 banks and six insurance companies.
These accounts are with the Bank of the Philippine Islands, Banco de Oro Unibank, Inc., Citibank NA, Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corp., HSBC Savings Bank (Phils), Land Bank of the Philippines, Metrobank Card Corp., Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co., United Coconut Planters Bank, Air Materiel Wings Savings and Loan Association, Insulalar Life Assurance Co. Ltd., Philippine AXA Life Insurance Corp., Philippine American Life & General Insurance Co., Philippine American Life and General Insurance Co., and Sun Life of America.
NOT QUALIFIED STATE WITNESS
Legally and morally, there is no way government can appoint embattled businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles a state witness against politicians involved in the multi-billion peso pork barrel fund scam.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, a lawyer, aired this view as he scoffed at pronouncements aired by government officials in floating the idea that Napoles may qualify as witness to pin down congressmen and senators linked to the fund congressional fund controversy.
The United Nationalist Alliances has also expressed suspicions that accepting Napoles as a government witness would only result to a witch hunt of politicians who are critical of the Aquino government.
“The Malacanang proposition that Janet Napoles will be turned as state witness is unacceptable to the Filipino people and offends the very moral fiber of society. It is totally revolting!“ stated Colmenares.
The Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines also expressed its opposition to the idea of making Napoles a state witness.
AMRSP co-chairperson Sr. Mary John Mananzan said instead of making her a state witness, Napoles should be prosecuted.
For his part, Senate President Franklin Drilon yesterday said it is up to the Department of Justice (DoJ) to determine whether the suspected brains behind the pork barrel fund scam qualifies to be a state witness.
“As a lawyer, there are standards being observed for one to be a state witness,“ said Drilon in an interview at the sidelines of the 117th Anniversary of the Battle of Pinaglabanan in San Juan City
“First of all, they should be the least guilty. Second, their testimony is needed for the successful prosecution of the case,“ the Senate leader said. (with reports from Leslie Ann G. Aquino, Hannah L. Torregoza, Ben Rosario)