I COLLECTED 'PORK' CUTS FOR JPE, JINGGOY - RUBY TUAZON

Most of the deals were in cold cash and no receipts weregiven.And two senators initially hesitated to deal with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, but were persuaded by a promise of a 40 percent kickback, with five percent tax withheld. This was the gist of the statement of Ruby Tuason, former social secretary of deposed President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, who returned to the country yesterday, delivering what Justice Secretary Leila de Lima called a “slam dunk of evidence” linking Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada to the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam. “I want to clear my conscience and live in peace,” Tuason told reporters in an ambush interview at the Department of Justice (DOJ), which approved her request to be placed under the Witness Protection Program (WPP). She later proceeded to the Office of the Ombudsman to submit her statement.

ALSO: ‘She [RUBY] wants to save her neck, skin’ & properties-- Jinggoy

Allegations raised by a former trusted aide of his father linking him to the pork barrel scam
were without evidence and intended “to save her neck, skin and her properties,” Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said yesterday, referring to Ruby Tuason who returned to the country to offer herself as state witness. “I know this fight will be long and hard but I have faith in the end the truth will prevail. And I will be vindicated,” Estrada said. His father Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, for whom Tuason had served as social secretary, said he is confident his senator-son can defend himself. Tuason was also part of MARE, a foundation led by former senator Loi Ejercito, the senator’s mother. The younger Estrada is facing plunder charges along with Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. in connection with the pork barrel scam allegedly perpetrated by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. Tuason, in her affidavit, said she had delivered kickbacks from pork-funded projects to Estrada and Enrile. The Senate minority leader has yet to issue a statement on Tuason’s allegations. Estrada said he believes the government had to tap Tuason because the testimonies of main whistle-blower Benhur Luy were weak.

ALSO: ‘Slam dunk evidence’

THE Justice Department said Friday that the former social secretary of deposed President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Ruby Tuason, was in custody and would provide “slam dunk evidence” linking opposition Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile to the P10-billion pork barrel scam. Master of the dunk. Ruby Tuazon swears to the veracity of her statement implicating Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada to the pork barrel scam before Ombudsman Conchita Morales on Friday. Tuason also confessed that she made the same offer to Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, Enrile’s chief of staff. “At first, Attorney Gigi Reyes refused to see Janet Napoles but agreed to course the release of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s PDAF following the same arrangement that Janet Napoles made to Senator Jinggoy Estrada,” Tuason said in her sworn statement, which was executed last Tuesday at the consular office in San Francisco, Calif. Tuason recalled there were instances when she herself delivered the shares of the senators. Tuason admitted that she would pass through the basement of the Senate building in Pasay City to personally deliver the kickbacks to Senator Estrada. On the other hand, Tuason only dealt with Enrile’s chief of staff, meeting Reyes in several restaurants in Makati and Taguig.

ALSO: I’ll face charges squarely’ – Jinggoy Senator

Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Ejercito Estrada vowed yesterday that he would never leave the country as more pieces of evidence have been gathered by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to strengthen the plunder case against him and two other senators – Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. Sen Jiggoy Estrada, touted as a possible vice presidential bet in the 2016 national elections, said he will answer the new allegations against him, this time by a former aide of his father. He also expressed optimism that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales would treat the plunder case fairly. (photo from senate.gov.ph) “I will face the charges squarely (once the plunder charges are elevated to the Sandiganbayan),” Estrada said following the return to the country of Ruby Tuason, a key witness in the case. Tuason had earlier executed an affidavit in California, USA, which she later submitted to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. In that affidavit, Tuason attested that she was the bagman of Estrada and Enrile. Tuason, a former social secretary of Senator Estrada’s father, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada when the latter was the President from 1998 to 2001, claimed that she delivered the pork barrel kickbacks for the two senators from Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged brain behind the controversial P-10 billion pork barrel (Priority Development Assistance Program) scam.


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I collected ‘pork’ cuts for JPE, Jinggoy – Ruby


Pork barrel scam witness Ruby Tuason takes her oath before submitting her affidavit at the Office of the Ombudsman yesterday as Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima look on. BOY SANTOS

MANILA, FEBRUARY 10, 2014 (PHILSTAR)  By Edu Punay - Most of the deals were in cold cash and no receipts were given.

And two senators initially hesitated to deal with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, but were persuaded by a promise of a 40 percent kickback, with five percent tax withheld.

This was the gist of the statement of Ruby Tuason, former social secretary of deposed President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, who returned to the country yesterday, delivering what Justice Secretary Leila de Lima called a “slam dunk of evidence” linking Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada to the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.

“I want to clear my conscience and live in peace,” Tuason told reporters in an ambush interview at the Department of Justice (DOJ), which approved her request to be placed under the Witness Protection Program (WPP).

She later proceeded to the Office of the Ombudsman to submit her statement.

Tuason confessed in her 15-page affidavit to being the “agent” since 2004 for the two senators in the scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles.

Told of the development, President Aquino said it would help provide closure to a dark episode in the country’s struggle against corruption and oppression.

“Madam Ombudsman, we are pleased to present to you, Mrs. Ruby Chan Tuason, who has applied for and was granted coverage under the WPP and is now turning state witness in the Napoles-related scam cases that are now before this honorable body,” De Lima told Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Also with Tuason was lawyer Dennis Manalo.

At first, Tuason said Sen. Estrada was hesitant to deal with Napoles. But when the latter offered to give 40 percent in kickback less five-percent withholding tax, the lawmaker eventually agreed to channel his pork allocation – officially called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) – to Napoles’ bogus non-government organizations.

Tuason said she made the same offer to Enrile’s chief-of-staff, lawyer Jessica “Gigi” Reyes.

“At first, Attorney Gigi Reyes refused to see Janet Napoles but agreed to course the release of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s PDAF following the same arrangement that Janet Napoles made to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada,” Tuason said in her affidavit executed last Tuesday at the consular office in San Francisco, California.

Tuason recalled there were instances when she herself would deliver the shares of the senators.

She said she would enter the Senate building in Pasay City through the basement to personally deliver the kickbacks to Estrada.

Tuason also revealed that the deal with Enrile was done through Reyes. She said she would meet Enrile’s trusted aide in several restaurants in Makati and Taguig.

At one time, Enrile arrived right after their meeting, Tuason said.

Tuason said she couldn’t recall the exact amounts involved in Napoles’ transactions with the senators but said they could be lower than the figures mentioned by whistle-blower Benhur Luy in his affidavit.

The transactions had no receipts and involved cold cash in many instances, she said.

Tuason also admitted receiving referral fee of 1.5 percent but did not say exactly how much that amounted to.

De Lima said Tuason promised “to return certain amount, which was her share for referring projects to the lawmakers that she implicated in the scam.”

Tuason arrived in Manila at around 3:40 a.m. yesterday on PAL flight PR 105 from San Francisco. Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) fetched her from the NAIA Terminal 2.

Bureau of Immigration records showed that she left the country on Aug. 26, just two days before Napoles surrendered.

A source said she declined to put on bullet-proof vest on her arrival.

“She was calm, very much like a rich traveler,” the source said.

De Lima revealed that Tuason sent surrender feelers to the DOJ early last month.

NBI agents first met her in San Francisco in the second week of January for preliminary talks.

Last Monday, the same team returned to the US to fetch her. She executed her affidavit before Consul General Jaime Ramon Ascalon and the next day booked her flight home.

Provisional

After assessing her testimony, the DOJ approved her application to turn state witness and placed her under WPP custody.

“This offer of testimony is very significant. This is more than corroborative because she is able to provide whatever was missing in the earlier testimonies of the whistle-blowers,” De Lima explained.

But the DOJ chief clarified that Tuason’s coverage under WPP would be “provisional” as the Office of the Ombudsman has yet to decide on her motion to be granted immunity from suit.

“Based on our evaluation, she is qualified to be state witness. But the final say lies with the Ombudsman after its own independent evaluation of the testimony. If the Ombudsman agrees with our evaluation, then she will be given full WPP coverage,” she added.

Tuason was among the legislative chiefs-of-staff named in the plunder, graft, malversation of public funds and direct bribery charges filed with the Ombudsman in September last year in connection with the PDAF scam.

“I’d like to emphasize that your application for being an immune witness and eventually hopefully a state witness will be conditional. Because we have to see to it that you do not hedge on your promise to testify for the prosecution,” Morales told Tuason.

Acknowledging Manalo’s representing Tuason, Morales told him “now we’re on the same side” after pointing out his being one of the defense counsels in the impeachment trial of former chief justice Renato Corona.

The lawyer, in reply, assured the Ombudsman of his client’s commitment to WPP requirements.

“She understands as well all the consequences attached thereto if she fails to do so (testify for the government),” Manalo added before Tuason was finally allowed to take an oath and swear to the authenticity and truthfulness of her affidavit.

“The truth will set you free, as they say. So I decided to tell the truth so I don’t have to fear anyone. I don’t have to hide,” Tuason told reporters while being escorted out of the Office of the Ombudsman to a safehouse.

“It was a very big sacrifice on my part because these are close friends of mine. It really pains me that I have to do this,” she added.

Manalo, in a separate interview, said Tuason’s affidavit contains details – including more names – that cannot be revealed yet pending the completion of a preliminary investigation being conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman.

“Insofar as the DOJ is concerned, they are satisfied. Mrs. Chan-Tuason’s statement corroborates the evidence that they have for the prosecution of this case,” he said.

“We will let Ombudsman make its own assessment, we don’t want to destroy the reputation of anyone,” he said.

“It took a repeated process of reflection, recollection, discernment on her part and she just realized that her only liberation from her anxiety, fear as well as a bothered conscience is the disclosure of the truth,” he said, referring to the circumstances that made her decide to turn state witness.

“It may not necessarily dovetail on every single point or fact but only on the substantial portions of the evidence. Insofar as the essential or material personalities are concerned, they are corroborated,” he said when asked if Tuason’s accounts in her affidavit were consistent with those of Luy’s.

“She mentioned everything that she knows and that includes the names of the people she transacted with. Yes, there will be other names,” he added.

“The DOJ is satisfied with her testimony and that is why she was endorsed personally by the secretary of the DOJ to the Ombudsman,” he said. “To me, the presence of these two heads of delicate agencies of our government means a lot. It means that they give full value to the process as well as to the statement that has been released today,” he added.

Senate invitation

Senators wasted no time in inviting Tuason to the Blue Ribbon committee hearing on the pork barrel scam on Thursday.

The committee, headed by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, had originally intended to devote its next hearing to threshing out Napoles’ involvement in the diversion of funds from the Malampaya natural gas project since it had already discussed most of the issues related to the PDAF scam.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago informed Guingona of her decision to attend the hearing even for just two hours since she is still suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome.

She asked Guingona to save a specific time slot for her to ask her questions.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano urged Tuason to “tread on the side of truth and bare all that she knows at the Blue Ribbon hearing.”

“Now is her opportunity to face her accusers, the people, and she should speak the truth,” Cayetano said.

Cayetano said that Tuason should reveal the identities of all the personalities involved in the scam.

“I also encourage the national government to continue using this formula in going after corruption masterminds – criminally charging all of those involved to push some of them into turning state witness and testify against the masterminds of the plunder of people’s money,” Cayetano said.

“This should not be limited to the pork barrel scam, but to other scandals as well like the Hello Garci, NBN-ZTE deal and the multi-million fertilizer controversies,” he added.

But a justice official who declined to be named said Napoles has become irrelevant as state witness with Tuason’s turning state witness.

“Before it was thought that only Napoles had access to the senators, that only she can prove that senators or their chiefs of staff had received cash. Now it’s different. Tuason turned out to be the conduit. She would get the money from Napoles and deliver it to the senators or their chiefs of staff,” the official said.

Luy’s lawyer Levito Baligod also said there’s no need to make Tuason a state witness. He said Luy’s accounts were enough to pin down Enrile, Estrada and a third senator, Ramon Revilla Jr.

President Aquino welcomed Tuason’s decision to come out in the open and testify for the government, saying her testimonies would “reaffirm the allegations of the whistle-blowers.”

“Now the process will be completed,” he told reporters in a chance interview at the Army Grandstand in Fort Bonifacio.

Meanwhile, members of the elite Special Action Force (SAF) have been pulled out of Napoles’ security detail at Fort Sto. Domingo and replaced by policemen from the Regional Police Safety Battalion (RPSB).

Chief Superintendent Jaime Gatchalian, Calabarzon regional director, said the RPSB members assigned to guard Napoles had undergone extensive training to prepare them for the job.

Senior Superintendent Ronald Santos, Calabarzon regional deputy director for operations, said Napoles would remain locked up at the SAF training camp guarded by security personnel assigned on rotational basis.

Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP-Public Information Office (PIO) chief, said the SAF elements would be reassigned to guard members of the Moro National Liberation Front, who will be transferred to a jail in Bicutan from Zamboanga City. Michael Punongbayan, Aie Balagtas See, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Delon Porcalla, Marvin Sy, Teddy Molina

‘She wants to save her neck, skin’ By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 8, 2014 - 12:00am 14 7 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Allegations raised by a former trusted aide of his father linking him to the pork barrel scam were without evidence and intended “to save her neck, skin and her properties,” Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said yesterday, referring to Ruby Tuason who returned to the country to offer herself as state witness.

“I know this fight will be long and hard but I have faith in the end the truth will prevail. And I will be vindicated,” Estrada said.

His father Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, for whom Tuason had served as social secretary, said he is confident his senator-son can defend himself.

Tuason was also part of MARE, a foundation led by former senator Loi Ejercito, the senator’s mother.

The younger Estrada is facing plunder charges along with Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. in connection with the pork barrel scam allegedly perpetrated by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Tuason, in her affidavit, said she had delivered kickbacks from pork-funded projects to Estrada and Enrile.

The Senate minority leader has yet to issue a statement on Tuason’s allegations.

Estrada said he believes the government had to tap Tuason because the testimonies of main whistle-blower Benhur Luy were weak.

“They have a weak case against us, they really have to gather more pieces of evidence. They needed to have the alleged direct testimony of Tuason to bolster their case against us,” he said.

Estrada said he couldn’t recall any misunderstanding with Tuason. But he said she may have resented his not being able to grant her request for financial assistance while hiding in the US in October.

“She did not tell me why she needed the money. But I assumed it is for the case or to sustain her stay in America. But I told her I don’t have money anymore because we are now both facing charges,” he said.

“I have been told that her return is to execute an affidavit to implicate me in this ongoing PDAF scandal,” the senator said.

“If it is true that Mrs. Tuason will execute such affidavit, I can only surmise that the tremendous pressure brought upon her has finally take its toll,” he added.

Tuason submitted a sworn affidavit yesterday to the Office of the Ombudsman.

“I hope she will not fabricate stories. The truth will set you free,” he said.

Estrada lamented being “at the receiving end of the relentless persecution against those allegedly involved in the PDAF controversy.”

PDAF stands for Priority Development Assistance Fund, the official name of the congressional pork barrel.

“What is being portrayed against me is far from the truth,” he said in a phone patch interview.

The senator admitted having developed a friendship with Tuason but that he had never authorized her to make transactions on his behalf, particularly those involving his PDAF.

“Lastly, Mrs. Tuason has had no role with respect to the PDAF allocation of my office, whatsoever. In view of these facts, it will be a complete surprise if there is anything that Mrs. Tuason can say to implicate me in the charge of plunder or graft and corruption,” Estrada said.

Estrada reiterated he had never received money from Tuason or from Napoles, stressing that “any statement to the contrary is false.”

A former lawyer of former first gentleman Mike Arroyo also denied claims by Tuason that he had picked up kickbacks from her home for an unidentified principal.

Lawyer Jess Santos said he does not know, and has never even met or seen, Tuason.

“I don’t know who Ruby Tuason is. I do not know these people accusing me,” he swore.

“So how can I know where her home is when I never knew who she is,” Santos said.

“I never even knew that there was a Malampaya fund. Records will show that I was never involved in that fund and was never connected with anybody being linked to the scam,” Santos said.

“I’m ready to face God and any other forum to prove that I’m not that person. These are all falsehoods and lies,” Santos told The STAR. He said there are many people with names similar to his.

“My name is Jesus Santos. Some call me Hesus, some call me Jess,” he said.

Santos called on Tuason and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to immediately rectify reports that he was the Jess Santos who had supposedly picked up kickbacks from Tuason’s home.

“This outrageous lie has subjected me and my family to undue psychological and emotional torture, especially considering the fact that no evidence was presented against me by Tuason,” he said in a statement.

“I hope they will have the conscience not to further malign me,” Santos added.

In her affidavit executed last Tuesday at the consular office in San Francisco, California, Tuason alleged she had witnessed the delivery of kickbacks to the house of her late brother for an “undisclosed principal.”

“She mentioned the name of an individual who was picking up the money from their house. And that can lead us to Jess Santos,” De Lima told reporters in a press conference, reading from Tuason’s affidavit.

“You all know who Jess Santos is,” she said.

De Lima said Tuason’s statement is “a very important development.”

“Who is that undisclosed principal? There is already a name mentioned in the affidavit, so we will pursue this. Finally, we have an idea who is the so-called principal,” she stressed.

De Lima refused to discuss further details, saying the matter is undergoing fact-finding investigation in the Office of the Ombudsman.

Arroyo’s lawyer and spokesman Ferdinand Topacio, for his part, accused De Lima of insinuating the former first gentleman was involved in the Malampaya fund misuse. “What’s this? Guilt by insinuation?”

Arroyo, meanwhile, told The STAR, {Is there no end to this vindictive persecution? This is too much.”

He said the last time he saw Tuason was in 2008 at the wake of her divorced husband Carlos “Butch” Tuason, his cousin.

Topacio said De Lima’s statement “smacks of extreme irresponsibility and lack of ethics, logic and common human decency.” Edu Punay, Dino Balabo, Paolo Romero

FROM MANILA STANDARD

‘Slam dunk evidence’ By Rey E. Requejo | Feb. 08, 2014 at 12:01am

De Lima says Tuazon’s testimony to link JPE, Estrada in pork scam

THE Justice Department said Friday that the former social secretary of deposed President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Ruby Tuason, was in custody and would provide “slam dunk evidence” linking opposition Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile to the P10-billion pork barrel scam.


Master of the dunk. Ruby Tuazon swears
to the veracity of her statement implicating
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy
Estrada to the pork barrel scam before
Ombudsman Conchita Morales on Friday.
MANNY PALMERO

Tuason also confessed that she made the same offer to Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, Enrile’s chief of staff.

“At first, Attorney Gigi Reyes refused to see Janet Napoles but agreed to course the release of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s PDAF following the same arrangement that Janet Napoles made to Senator Jinggoy Estrada,”

Tuason said in her sworn statement, which was executed last Tuesday at the consular office in San Francisco, Calif.

Tuason recalled there were instances when she herself delivered the shares of the senators.

Tuason admitted that she would pass through the basement of the Senate building in Pasay City to personally deliver the kickbacks to Senator Estrada.

On the other hand, Tuason only dealt with Enrile’s chief of staff, meeting Reyes in several restaurants in Makati and Taguig.

On one occasion, Enrile arrived right after their meeting, Tuason said.

While Tuason has yet to recall the exact amounts of Napoles’ transactions with the two senators, she said the figures mentioned in the affidavits of the pork barrel scam whistleblowers led by Benhur Luy could be higher.

No receipts were issued for the transactions, which were done several times in cash, she said.

Tuason admitted she received a referral fee of 1.5 percent, but the amount was also not disclosed.

De Lima said Tuason has promised to return her share for referring projects to the lawmakers that she implicated in the scam.

Tuason Tuason arrived in Manila at about 3:40 a.m. Friday on board PAL Flight PR 105 from San Francisco where she was fetched by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Bureau of Immigration records showed that she left the country on Aug. 26, 2013, just two days before Napoles surrendered to President Aquino.

De Lima said Tuason sent feelers to the Justice Department early last month. NBI agents first went to her in San Francisco during the second week of January for preliminary talks.

Last Monday, the same team returned to the US to fetch her. She executed her affidavit before Consul General Jaime Ramon Ascalon the day after before being booked for her flight back home.

After assessing her testimony, the Justice Department approved her application to turn state witness and placed her under the witness protection program.

“This offer of testimony is very significant. This is more than corroborative because she is able to provide whatever was missing in the earlier testimonies of the whistleblowers,” De Lima said.

However, she said Tuason’s coverage under witness protection program would be provisional, pending the approval from the Ombudsman on her motion be granted immunity from suits.

“Based on our evaluation, she is qualified to be state witness. But the final say lies with the Ombudsman after its own independent evaluation of the testimony. If the Ombudsman agrees with our evaluation, then she will be given full WPP coverage,” De Lima said.

At the Palace, President Benigno Aquino III said the government would allow Tuason to turn state witness only if her testimony would “benefit the state.”

Aquino admitted that Tuason’s testimony could bring closure to the P10 billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Napoles.

“When she said she would testify, we now have one person who can complete the process, who can weave the story, who can reaffirm the allegations of our whistleblowers,” Aquino said.

“So this would strengthen the evidence that we have, and as we have promised the Filipino people, we will go where the evidence takes us,” the President added.

Tuason was among the chiefs-of-staff of lawmakers who were also charged with plunder, graft, malversation of public funds, or direct bribery before the Ombudsman in September last year over the pork barrel scam.

In her affidavit, Tuason also said she has witnessed the delivery of alleged kickbacks to the house of her late brother for an “undisclosed principal.”

“She mentioned the name of an individual who was picking up the money from their house. And that can lead us to Jess Santos,” De Lima said, reading from Tuason’s affidavit.

“You all know who Jess Santos is,” she said, referring to Arroyo’s former lawyer.

De Lima said Tuason’s statement was “a very important development.”

“Who is that undisclosed principal? There is already a name mentioned in the affidavit, so we will pursue this. Finally, we have an idea who is the so-called principal,” she said.

De Lima declined to give more details, saying the matter is undergoing investigation in the Office of the Ombudsman.

Last year, the NBI investigated the Malampaya fund scam based on the testimony of the whistleblowers led by Benhur Luy.

In October, the NBI filed with the Ombudsman plunder charges against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and 23 others, including former officials of her administration and Na-poles.

Tuason was among those charged. She was believed to have received P242.7 million, all delivered either through cash or through bank transactions, for an unidentified principal.

In cooperating with the NBI and agreeing to turn state witness, she vowed to return the kickbacks she got. With Joyce Pangco Pañares

FROM MANILA DAILY BULLETIN

I’ll face charges squarely’ – Jinggoy Senator by Mario Casayuran February 9, 2014

Jinggoy claims ‘Tita Ruby’ Delivered Pancit, Not Money, To Him


I’ll face charges squarely’ – Jinggoy Senator. Claims ‘Tita Ruby’ Delivered Pancit, Not Money, To Him

Manila, Philippines – Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Ejercito Estrada vowed yesterday that he would never leave the country as more pieces of evidence have been gathered by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to strengthen the plunder case against him and two other senators – Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.

Sen Jiggoy Estrada, touted as a possible vice presidential bet in the 2016 national elections, said he will answer the new allegations against him, this time by a former aide of his father. He also expressed optimism that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales would treat the plunder case fairly. (photo from senate.gov.ph) “I will face the charges squarely (once the plunder charges are elevated to the Sandiganbayan),” Estrada said following the return to the country of Ruby Tuason, a key witness in the case. Tuason had earlier executed an affidavit in California, USA, which she later submitted to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

In that affidavit, Tuason attested that she was the bagman of Estrada and Enrile.

Tuason, a former social secretary of Senator Estrada’s father, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada when the latter was the President from 1998 to 2001, claimed that she delivered the pork barrel kickbacks for the two senators from Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged brain behind the controversial P-10 billion pork barrel (Priority Development Assistance Program) scam.

•‘Clean Conscience’

“Ako malinis po ang konsensya ko (My conscience is clean). I can look at you straight into your eyes, Tita Ruby. You never delivered any money to me. That’s for sure,” Estrada said in reply to a statement of Tuason that she had delivered the kickback money from Napoles to him at the Senate basement parking area.

Estrada said Tuason had become a close friend to the Estrada family during her stay at Malacañang as his father’s social secretary.

Estrada said what Tuason delivered to him at the Senate basement parking area were foodstuff such as sandwiches, “empanaditas and pancit.”

“Tita Ruby naman, let’s go straight to the facts. Sana naman huwag naman po tayong magsisinungaling. Don’t concoct stories. Please tell the truth. Kasi one of the possibilities is that I can only surmise that the pressure is too heavy for Tita Ruby to bear,” he said.

Tuason has two cases arising from the pork barrel and the multi-million-peso Malampaya fund scams.

•‘Lay Up,’ Not ‘Slam Dunk’

Asked to comment on the statement of De Lima that the evidence presented by Tuason against 38 persons, including the three senators, accused of plunder amounted to a “slam dunk,” Estrada said it is more of a “lay up” where a basketball player sometimes misses.

“Whatever Ms. Tuason would say against me, I am totally unfazed because there is nothing. Wala akong kinatatakutan,” he added.

Estrada, touted as a possible vice presidential bet in the 2016 national elections, expressed optimism that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales would treat the plunder case fairly.

‘Iyong ang pinagdarasal ko,” he added.

Told that Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago had asked Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, to give her time to question Tuason in the committee’s public hearing on Thursday, Estrada said some senators have their own agenda “and many senators had asked questions at our expenses.”

This intramural among senators affects those who have presidential and vice presidential ambitions leading to the 2016 elections, he added.

All three senators accused of plunder had decided not to attend the Guingona committee hearing. “If the case is elevated by the Ombudsman to the Sandiganbayan, I will face the charges squarely. What I am praying is that they first read carefully my reply-complaint on the charges filed against me,” he said.

•Special Treatment?

Malacanang yesterday assured that Tuason’s application as a state witness will be thoroughly reviewed by the Office of the Ombudsman following criticisms that she is getting special treatment despite her involvement in the pork barrel scam.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Tuason should pass all the requirements before becoming a state witness.

“There is a procedure where one becomes a state witness. If you recall, [there are] requirements for one to become a witness under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) and also eventually as a state witness. One of these being that the person is the least guilty,” Lacierda said.

“(Justice) Secretary Leila De Lima mentioned that conditional ang kanyang status right now so, pag-aaralan pa ni Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ang status ng kanyang application,” he said.

The Palace official said this procedure does not only apply to Tuason but to all others involved in crimes who may be least guilty.

“This is a criminal procedure that applies to everyone. Ini-evaluate talaga. Meron tayong batas, meron tayong mga standards na tinitingnan at kung papasok sila doon sa standards, pwede silang mag-avail of Witness Protection Program, puwede silang mag-avail to be discharged as a state witness so this does not apply only to Ms. Ruby Tuason,” Lacierda said.

He said it is allowed by the law as “it facilitates the revelation of the truth.”

•Significant Testimony

According to Lacierda, Tuason’s testimony is significant in shedding light to the pork barrel scam.

“Let’s wait for that case to progress. At least it lifted the veil of mystery as to some of the transactions. Now, we have someone who witnessed the giving of the funds to certain legislators. So, at least we will see now where the case will lead and it strengthens the case of the DOJ and now it is up to the Ombudsman to weigh the evidence and file a case before the Sandiganbayan,” he said.

Lacierda, meanwhile, denied that the return of Tuason to the country is aimed against Enrile, Revilla, and Estrada, all of whom had been charged of plunder.

“Kung saan merong ebidensya, doon tatakbo ang kaso [The case will go where the evidence leads us],” he said. “We’ve never departed from that instruction from the President].” (With a report from Madel Sabater – Namit)


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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