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Benhur Luy drops Baligod as counsel

Claims lawyer ‘very busy’ with other advocacies

BENHUR Luy, the government’s principal witness in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, has dropped his lawyer Levito Baligod, saying he had been spending too little time on his case because of his “other advocacies.”

“I have noticed that you were very busy with your other advocacies, [and] that is why I have decided to pursue this journey even without you guiding me,” Luy said in his letter to Baligod released by the Department of Justice on Tuesday.

“It will not be easy[,] though[,] but this will mutually benefit us in the end.”

Luy did not elaborate, though he expressed his gratitude to Baligod for his services starting from the time news of the pork barrel scam broke last year.

“I would like to thank you for your time in protecting my rights and representing me in my legal battles,” Luy said.

Luy and Baligod had shared the limelight for several months after they exposed the alleged anomalies in the use of pork barrel by lawmakers allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

But Baligod told GMA News Tuesday night that he was surprised by Luy’s decision to drop him as his legal counsel.

He said he only learned about Luy’s decision from a radio report.

Luy on Monday afternoon signed before the Bureau of Investigation a letter confirming that he would no longer use Baligod’s services in the pork-barrel-scam cases.

Baligod said he had yet to receive a copy of Luy’s letter but denied being remiss in his legal obligations on those cases.

He also denied that he was trying to prevent Luy from giving testimony that could implicate Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory Ong.

He said he had only advised Luy not to give statements that he could not back with evidence.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she had been hearing about Luy’s issue with Baligod since several weeks ago, and that Luy had been feeling neglected.

“I thought they would patch up whatever differences they had,” De Lima said.

“I thought it would not come to this point where he would have to replace his lawyer, but we have to respect the decision of Benhur. That is his prerogative.”

De Lima said Luy’s decision to drop Baligod as his lawyer would not affect the pending cases of plunder now undergoing a preliminary investigation in the Office of the Ombudsman.

But Senator Jinggoy Estrada, one of the three senators implicated in the scam, told reporters the termination of Baligod’s services would benefit him, and that it simply showed that Luy’s camp was “disintegrating.”

“I think they’re disintegrating,” Estrada said.

“If they are not organized, that will be plus points for us. It will be good for us because that shows their evidence is weak.”

Estrada is facing plunder charges along with Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile, who refused to comment on Baligod’s release.

De Lima said Baligod’s failure to devote more time to the pork scam cases was the reason she knew for Luy’s decision. Any other reason would be a “very privileged matter,” she said.

She said a team of three to four “young lawyers” would take over Baligod’s place but did not identify them yet.

She said she was not sure if Merlina Sunas, the other whistle-blower represented by Baligod, had also dropped him.

Baligod’s replacement as Luy’s lawyer came after he reportedly presented to the Office of the Ombudsman two new possible witnesses in the pork barrel scam cases without De Lima’s knowledge or approval.

De Lima said Baligod had admitted that he was assisting two respondents in the cases but did not clarify their status: whether or not they were offering themselves as state witnesses.

“He didn’t explain anymore who exactly they were and what business they had with the Ombudsman,” she said.

De Lima said the lawyer apologized to her for “forgetting to clear with me.”

However, Baligod denied saying in a report that he brought the witnesses straight to the Ombudsman’s office and not to the Department of Justice to avoid too much noise and the possibility of prematurely revealing their identities, De Lima said.

 

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