A Manila court handling a petition for the forfeiture of assets of Vice President Jejomar Binay has ordered lawyers in the case as well as court employees to refrain from speaking in public about the issue or face contempt charges.
Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 53 presiding Judge Reynaldo Alhambra issued the gag order yesterday even as Binay’s spokesman for political affairs Rico Quicho claimed the court has denied a petition of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for a freeze order on a bank account of the Vice President.
Reporters who tried to cover yesterday a hearing on the issue were barred from entering the courtroom.
Binay counsel Claro Certeza declined to comment on the matter.
But he said the Vice President’s camp filed a motion to dismiss AMLC’s civil forfeiture case against Binay and 62 other individuals and corporations, citing Republic Act 1379 which provides that “no such petition shall be filed within one year before any general election or within three months before any special election.”
AMLC filed the civil forfeiture case against Binay and the others on Nov. 12, a day after the six-month freeze order on the assets of the Binay family lapsed.
The following day, the Manila RTC issued a 20-day provisional asset protection order on several accounts, including a single account under the Vice President’s name.
Meanwhile, Quicho claimed the Manila RTC denied AMLC’s petition for a freeze order on a Binay bank account.
“This only shows that the case being presented by AMLC has no legal basis,” Quicho said.
Quicho also said the Vice President has volunteered to the court not to touch the funds in his account until the court has resolved all legal issues.
“Since the 20-day provisional asset protection order was deemed lifted, Vice President Binay volunteered to the court that he will not touch the funds in his account in order for the court to properly resolve the legal issues,” Quicho said.
“This is a voluntary act to show that Vice President has nothing to hide and is confident in his position that the AMLC petition is not only illegal, but also a clear act of political harassment,” he added.
After claiming earlier that the Vice President was keeping billions deposited in 242 accounts, the AMLC asked the Manila RTC to freeze only one account with a deposit of P1.7 million.