De Lima: No group trying to control Benhur
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - March 6, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Even if he is under the government’s witness protection program, principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy is free from any influence in his testimony on the pork barrel scam, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said yesterday.

Luy is expected to again take the witness stand at today’s hearing – the 10th so far – of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee on the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the official name of the congressional pork barrel.

Technology Resource Center head Dennis Cunanan, a potential state witness, is also set to face the committee today.

De Lima gave the assurance amid claims by Luy’s former lawyer Levito Baligod that a group has been trying to “control” the main witness in the PDAF scam.

“I don’t think there’s someone controlling Benhur. I don’t know what attorney Levi is talking about,” De Lima told reporters.

“Neither the administration nor the opposition is controlling him,” she said. “I am very strict when it comes to access to him. It’s very limited, so if there is such alleged move to access him or control him, we will definitely know about it.”

The DOJ chief revealed that even her access to Luy is limited.

In a letter made public by the DOJ last Tuesday, Luy told Baligod of his decision to terminate the services of the lawyer, citing the latter’s divided attention on the PDAF issue.

De Lima admitted feeling sad about the split in the “original team” in the PDAF controversy, but said that a lawyer-client relationship is a “very privileged matter.”

In response, Baligod said he was surprised by Luy’s decision and denied being remiss in his duties as lawyer.

The lawyer also denied allegations that he was trying to control Luy’s testimony that might implicate Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory Ong in the pork barrel case.

He said he only recalled having advised Luy not to give statements that the whistle-blower could not back with evidence.

“As a lawyer, I saw that his statements were not enough to destroy the life of a person like Justice Ong. That’s why I advised him to only say what he could prove,” he said in a separate interview.

Ong is chairman of the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, which acquitted Napoles in 2010 in a malversation case related to the alleged overpricing of Kevlar helmets for the Philippine Marines in 1998.

He was earlier linked to Napoles after a photo of them together in a social event made the rounds last year.

Credibility test

Cunanan’s credibility as a potential witness is likely to be put to the test as he makes his first appearance before the Blue Ribbon committee today, panel chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said.

He said Luy was also invited to the hearing so he could either corroborate or contradict Cunanan’s testimony.

“We will also look at the way he conducts himself. All these will be taken into account,” Guingona said, referring to Cunanan.

He said Sen. Grace Poe had asked Cunanan to bring his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN). – Edu Punay, Marvin Sy

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