The Sandiganbayan has denied for lack of merit Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada’s request to exclude the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s (AMLC)’s bank inquiry report in the proceedings.
The AMLC’s bank inquiry report pertained to bank transactions related to Estrada’s alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
“I am quite disappointed by the decision of the court but I have no other alternative, no other choice but to respect the decision of the court,” Estrada said, who earlier argued that the AMLC report is supposed to be strictly confidential.
But in a three-page ruling, the court said the AMLC’s authority to inquire into bank deposits was made under Section 11 of Republic Act 9160, which allows AMLC to examine bank deposits upon order of any competent court in cases of violation of the Act (RA 9160 or the Anti-Money Laundering Act).
The Court of Appeals earlier allowed the AMLC to examine the accused’s bank deposits.
The anti-graft court said, “The confidentiality provisions alluded to by accused Estrada, referring to Sections 7 and 49 of A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC, do not apply to the present case.”
A.M. No. 05-11-04-SC is the rule of procedure in cases of civil forfeiture, asset preservation and freezing of monetary instrument or property.
“The proceedings are not the same in this case as the present case already involves a charge for plunder, a predicate offense under AMLC investigation,” the court said.
It also held that an ex-parte inquiry may be made as argued by the prosecution, and that a precedent case (Republic vs. Eugenio) recognizes an exception.
The Supreme Court (SC) ruling in the said case reads, “Any exception to the rule of absolute confidentiality must be specifically legislated.”
“A subsequent law, the Ombudsman Act of 1989, contains a provision relating to ‘access to bank accounts and records’,” the anti-graft court noted while quoting the SC ruling.
It said, “Accused’s invocation of Section 3 of Article III of the Constitution finds no application. The inquiry into his bank deposits was pursuant to a state sanctioned legislation specifically Republic Act 9160 and The Ombudsman Act of 1989.”
Estrada is facing a P183-million plunder case in connection with the pork barrel scam before the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division, which is hearing his petition for bail.
Prosecutors were unable to present the report in the previous hearing after the defense filed the request to exclude it from the proceedings.