Janet Lim-Napoles still has several millions worth of assets and pieces of property that remain hidden, according to the lawyer of pork barrel scam witness Benhur Luy.Raji Mendoza on Sunday told The Manila Times that the government must find these assets and have them forfeited.
”The witnesses know that there are in fact personal [pieces of property]that are unaccounted for. At least one of these is worth P200 million,” Mendoza said. Some of these witnesses, like Benhur Luy, have been accepted into the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).
According to Mendoza, the witnesses claimed that Napoles kept pieces of jewelry and other personal assets that run in the millions.
He said they have informed the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) on the existence of these assets through the court.
”We already told them about this and the witnesses are wiling to help but AMLC has no reply,” Mendoza added.
At the same time, a source said Luy and the other witnesses are willing to help the government in recovering the assets of Napoles but the AMLC trained the guns on them instead.
The well-placed source who is privy to the case told The Times in an interview that the witnesses are beginning to feel the “heat.”
“They are now in a quandary, especially Benhur Luy because they are trying to help AMLC but [the council]keeps on freezing their assets. They are trying to reach out but they get the feeling that AMLC is an adversary,” the source said.
According to him, Napoles, alleged pork barrel scam mastermind who is under hospital care, has so much hidden assets that the AMLC should unearth them.
“Napoles has huge assets that the AMLC has not seen yet. The witnesses know,” the source pointed out.
“There is something or [there are]some people who are giving them [witnesses]a hard day and a hard life. So that they will give up. The witnesses could not air their sentiments without solid proof, however,” he said.
The source noted that Napoles’ request to become a state witness is part of a “conspiracy.”
“Whatever the conspiracy may be, the effect is the same. She [Napoles] is benefiting from hospital vacation. She’s supposed to be in jail,” he said.
Luy lawyer Mendoza refused to comment, saying it may affect the witnesses’ relationship with the Department of Justice. He, however, confirmed that Luy is “unhappy” over the freezing of his assets.
“The law protects them also under the WPP. [They should be] protected from forfeiture. The court ordered the submission of memoranda on our position to discharge his assets. Three weeks probably, hopefully, [that is fast enough],” Mendoza told The Times.
Previously, the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 22 issued an assets preservation order, which froze the bank accounts of Luy’s family and assets that they acquired in the last decade.
In his motion, Luy said the court should immediately lift the order because the money in his bank accounts came from legal sources, including his salaries during his 10-year employment with Napoles, his cousin.
“It does not automatically follow that since the money acquired by Janet Napoles was illegally sourced, the salary of Benhur Luy also came from the same source,” Luy’s motion read.
Luy’s camp said the AMLC, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) , failed to provide “the specific act or omission prohibited by the Anti-Money Laundering Act against the respondents.”
It was ruled that Luy cannot insist that his admission into the WPP should automatically grant him immunity from criminal suit. The court explained the forfeiture case was civil in nature.
Covered by the assets preservation order were Benhur’s dollar account with BPI containing $15,008, as well as his peso accounts with Metrobank and United Coconut Planters Bank; his brother Arthur’s BDO account containing P940,000; as well as their mother Gertrudes’ Metrobank account.
Among the frozen pieces of property were a 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer belonging to Arthur, as well as Benhur’s Eastworld Mox motorcycle, 2010 Mitsubishi Montero Sport G and a 2004 Toyota Corolla Altis
But Mendoza said there is hope for Luy.
“The court will decide on whether to release [the assets]. Good points were raised by the OSG citing an old case back in the 1960s. There was a [Supreme Court] ruling that forfeiture is civil so [that cannot be invoked in seeking]immunity. But months after, the SC decided that what is civil is the procedure but the taking [forfeiture]is penalty in nature. He should be immune from that because he [Luy] is covered,” the lawyer explained.