Former senator Jinggoy Estrada suffered another legal setback after the Supreme Court dismissed his petition seeking to stop the Sandiganbayan from allowing the inquiry report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council as evidence in the plunder case filed against him.
The case is in connection with the anomaly involving his Priority Development Assistance Funds or pork barrel funds.
In an 11-page resolution written by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, the high court dismissed for being moot and academic Estrada’s petition assailing the denial of the anti-graft court of his motion to suppress and exclude in the plunder case against him the AMLC inquiry report on the bank transactions related to his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Nonetheless, the high court resolved to uphold the constitutionality of Section 11 of Republic Act 9160, or The Anti-Money Laundering Act, allowing ex parte applications by the AMLC for bank inquiry on those facing plunder charges.
Estrada, in his petition, argued that the filing of an ex parte application for an order to inquire into bank deposits and investments violates the constitutionally mandated right to due process and right to privacy, among other things.
But the high court said the constitutionality of Section 11 of RA 9160 had been upheld in its decision on the Subido case on Dec. 6, 2016, where it ruled that the AMLC’s ex parte application for the bank inquiry order based on the provision “did not violate substantive due process because the physical seizure of the targeted corporeal property was not contemplated by the law.”
The high court also ruled as “unfounded and bereft of substance” the contention that RA 10167, which amended Section 11 of RA 9160, is an ex post facto legislation because it applies retroactively to bank transactions made prior to the effectivity of the amendment and imposes new legal burdens to already completed transactions.
The tribunal said the elimination of the requirement of notice, by itself, was not a removal of any lawful protection to the account holder because the AMLC was only exercising its investigative power at this stage.
The Court said the AMLC’s inquiry and examination into bank accounts were not undertaken whimsically based on its investigative discretion as the AMLC and the Court of Appeals were respectively required to ascertain the existence of probable cause before any bank inquiry order was issued.
In ruling Estrada’s petition was moot and academic, the high court said Estrada had already been granted bail by the Sandiganbayan on Sept. 15, 2017, where the anti-graft court denied his motion to dismiss the case for lack of merit and reconsidered and set aside its Jan. 7, 2016 resolution and instead granted him bail upon the submission and approval of bail in the amount of P1 million to be posted in cash.
“Considering that the resolutions assailed trace their roots to the bail hearing of Estrada, the aforementioned conclusions of the Sandiganbayan relevant to his bail application, and the eventual grant of bail to him have rendered his petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus moot and academic,” the high court said.
“There is no question that whenever the issues have become moot and academic, there ceases to be any justiciable controversy, such that the resolution of the issues no longer have any practical value.”