DETAINED former Senator Jinggoy Estrada and his wife have asked the Supreme Court to declare certain provisions of the Anti-Money Laundering Act unconstitutional for violating their right of due process and privacy.
In an 82-page memorandum, Estrada and his wife Ma. Presentacion made the appeal even as he assailed the March 2015 resolution of the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division resolution denying his attempt to block the use of an inquiry report by the Anti-Money Laundering Council as evidence in his P183.8-million plunder case.
The Estradas questioned Sections 10 and 11 of the Amla which bestows upon the AMLC the authority to freeze bank accounts and inquire into bank deposits.
The petitioners stressed the provisions violate Sections 1 (right to due process), 2 (right against unreasonable searches and seizures), and 3 (right to privacy) of Article III of the 1987 Constitution.
The Estradas argued they have a constitutional right to notice and hearing, before any inquiry could be made on their bank accounts.
According them, these rights have been violated when the AMLC drew up an inquiry report submitted by the Office of the Ombudsman as evidence to pin him down for the alleged receipt of kickbacks from the Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations purportedly diverted to fake foundations controlled by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
The Estradas also assailed the retroactive application of the 2012 amendment of AMLA’s Section 11 under Republic Act No. 10167.
Since the bank accounts were opened from 2005 to 2012, they argued the old Section 11 should be applied, and the accounts should not have been inspected without notice to them.
The memorandum stated that wife Ma. Presentacion Vitug Ejercito was denied due process when the surveillance of her bank account was later used as evidence against the former senator in the alleged plunder of his Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations.
It stated Section 11 of the AMLA, specifically its mention of “related accounts,” suffered from vagueness and overreach.
In the Estradas’ case, the provision was allegedly “so broad that it intrudes into Petitioner Presentacion’s right to privacy and personal security, as well as into privileged communication between husband and wife.”
The Estrada couple also said it was “not fair play” for the AMLC to be allowed to probe bank accounts simply on the basis of government agents’ recommendations that are delivered in an ex parte discussion without giving the affected party the chance to respond.
It said the criteria to justify a search under the AMLA is “below the ‘probable cause’ test laid down in the Constitution,” as the government can only put up bank inquiries on the basis of “mere suspicion” even without the facts to establish a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed.
The Estradas dubbed such inquiries as a “plain and simple ‘fishing expedition,” because it was only afterwards that the “hunch of the government agents may prove to be right” and the probable cause could be had.