A division of the Court of Appeals (CA) has frozen 242 bank accounts and insurance policies belonging to Vice President Jejomar Binay.
A freeze order was issued by the First Division, which is composed of Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. and Associate Justices Edwin Sorongon and Ricardo Rosario.
The order shall last for six months.
A source of The Manila Times on Tuesday said a resolution, which was dated May 11, granted a petition of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to allow the council to scrutinize the bank accounts of Binay and members of his family, as well as corporations linked to the Vice President.
The AMLC and the Office of the Ombudsman wanted to ensure that personal assets of Binay that were allegedly ill-gotten would not be dissipated and so a freeze order must be issued by the appellate court
The CA issued the resolution on the basis of finding probable cause with the petition filed by AMLC .
It also ordered banks to immediately make a reporting of amounts remaining in the bank accounts of the Binays within 24 hours after the banks concerned receive a copy of the order.
The AMLC filed the petition upon request of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who had ordered preventive suspension of Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr. for six months.
Implementation of the suspension has since been held in abeyance after the CA granted the mayor’s petition for a temporary restraining order.
The petition for application for the freeze order was filed by the AMLC last week and was represented by the Office of the Solicitor General under officer-in-charge Karl Miranda, since Solicitor-General Florin Hilbay was then in The Hague, Netherlands.
The Manila Times learned that it was also Morales who made a request for examination of the bank accounts of the Binay family last February.
Aside from the Binay patriarch, the source said the bank accounts that also subject of scrutiny are those of his wife, Dr. Elenita Binay, and son Mayor Binay.
The CA also ordered a probe of the bank accounts of the corporations linked to the Binay clan and alleged to be sources of the ill-gotten wealth as claimed by former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado.
The Manila Times source said several bank accounts were covered by the freeze order, including those in Banco de Oro, Bank of the Philippine Islands and Landbank of the Philippines, among several others.
Also covered by the freeze order were bank accounts of trader Gerry Limlingan, the alleged dummy and bagman of Binay when he was still the mayor of Makati, as also claimed by Mercado.
In the long line of AMLC cases in the Court of Appeals after Republic Act 9160 was passed into law in 2001, this is the first time that bank accounts of a Vice President of the Philippines were ordered to be frozen.
This makes Binay as the highest-ranking government official being investigated by AMLC over allegedly ill-gotten wealth.
The Senate blue ribbon committee has ordered an inquiry into transactions and assets of Binay on the basis of the testimonies of Mercado, Renato Bondal and Nicolas Enciso VI.
Mercado, Bondal and Enciso filed plunder raps against the Vice President and Mayor Binay before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building 2.
The Binay camp said it cannot confirm reports of a supposed freeze order on the bank accounts of the Vice President and members of his family since court proceedings are deemed highly confidential.
But Joey Salgado, Office of the Vice President head for media affairs, said they received reliable information that as early as last month, key leaders of the Liberal Party obtained copies of an AMLC report on the Vice President ‘s bank accounts.
“We have been asked to comment on a report that a freeze order has allegedly been issued on bank accounts supposedly identified with Vice President Binay and members of his family based on the recommendation of the AMLC.
“We cannot confirm this report. We do not know if such an order has been issued by the Court of Appeals. Court proceedings of this nature are deemed highly confidential and any party who discloses [them]is subject to contempt,” Salgado said.
“[But] we have received reports that as early as last month, key personalities of the LP already got copies of the AMLC report, which is supposed to be confidential. The LP has its fingerprints all over the AMLC probe. This is apparently part of their game plan,” he added.
Salgado pointed out that such report is deemed classified to protect the name and reputation of concerned parties.
“There is good reason for the confidentiality clause: the party which is the subject of the inquiry has not yet given his or her response. The intention is to protect innocent parties from the damage to their name and reputation,” he said.
Salgado added that it will not surprise them if such order and the AMLC report have already been leaked to the media by the Vice President’s political opponents.
“This is after all a perception game that they are playing. Their intention is to taint the good name of Vice President Binay,” he said, adding that they will not also be surprised if he AMLC is involved in the conspiracy to malign the Vice President and his family.
Since Binay has declared his intention to run for President in 2016, according to Salgado, the LP has been on a mission to damage his reputation.
“The Liberal Party has been obsessed with attacking the Vice President. The LP has been aggressively harnessing government resources and agencies against the Vice President and his family ever since he declared his intention to run for President in 2016. The AMLC is apparently one of these agencies,” he said.
Salgado cited the LP’s abuse of the Anti-Money Laundering Act for political gains.
“What is unfortunate is that the intent of the Act has been subverted by politics. The Act was signed into law to prevent the use of the Philippines as a haven for laundering money from drugs, terrorism and other unlawful acts. Today, it is a tool to harass and taint the reputation of political enemies of the LP,” he said.
WITH REINA TOLENTINO