PORK SCAM WHISTLEBLOWERS' LAWYER UNEASY WITH TUAZON SUDDEN RETURN

Could Ruby Chan Tuason be part of the defense strategy? The counsel for three whistleblowers on Sunday raised questions on Tuason’s motivation to come home and testify on two senators’ role in the P10-billion pork barrel scam. Lawyer Stephen Cascolan wondered aloud about who sent Tuason abroad in 2013 in the middle of the riveting pork barrel scandal, and who was talking to her before she agreed to cooperate with the government. But otherwise, Cascolan said his clients – Marina Sula, Arlene Baltazar and Monette Briones – were thrilled to meet Tuason. “Is Ms Tuason here for the long haul? We admit we have doubts, in the same way there were doubts when our witnesses started to cooperate,’’ Cascolan said in a radio interview Sunday.

ALSO: In The Know: Ruby Tuason

Ruby Chan-Tuason is facing plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel and Malampaya Fund scams. Tuason is one of the respondents in the P10-billion scam involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund allegedly engineered by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. The whistle-blowers named Tuason Napoles’ conduit to Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada. According to the record of principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy, Tuason received P60 million from Napoles’ JLN Corp., although it was not clear whether she received it for Enrile or Estrada. Tuason is also among those charged with plunder over the alleged misuse of P900 million from the Malampaya Fund. She allegedly received P242 million in kickbacks from the fund. Tuason is known to be a core member of Masa Ang Riwasa ni Erap, a group of women who played a decisive role in former President Joseph Estrada’s presidential campaign and are closely attached to former First Lady Dr. Loi Ejercito Estrada. A few weeks after President Estrada was sworn to office, Tuason was appointed Estrada’s social secretary with the rank of presidential assistant. An astute marketing strategist and a seasoned public relations practitioner, her appointment came a week after the installation of her husband, Carlos “Butch” Tuason, as chair of the Philippine Sports Commission. She also played a key role in the financial logistics of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration’s Team Unity senatorial slate in the 2007 elections.

ALSO: Jinggoy feels betrayed by close friend of Estradas

Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada said he felt betrayed that a longtime family friend
would do this to him. Reacting to erstwhile suspect Ruby Tuason’s dramatic emergence as a state witness in the P10-billion pork barrel scam who would reportedly deliver damning evidence against him, Estrada said Tuason, a former social secretary of his father and a family friend of long standing, must be doing it “to save her own skin.” “I am quite sad that she came out into the open without any basis. At our expense, just to save her own skin… she will surprise everyone and fabricate stories. That’s not right,” Estrada said in a phone interview. Prove it! He dared Tuason to prove that she gave him millions of pesos in kickbacks from his pork barrel entitlements. “She should have to prove that she gives me money in the Senate and that she gives me money at my residence,” he said.

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Pork scam whistleblowers’ lawyer uneasy with sudden return of Tuason


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Ruby Tuason. Photo by INQUIRER.net

MANILA, FEBRUARY 10, 2014 (INQUIRER) By TJ Burgonio - Could Ruby Chan Tuason be part of the defense strategy?

The counsel for three whistleblowers on Sunday raised questions on Tuason’s motivation to come home and testify on two senators’ role in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Lawyer Stephen Cascolan wondered aloud about who sent Tuason abroad in 2013 in the middle of the riveting pork barrel scandal, and who was talking to her before she agreed to cooperate with the government.

But otherwise, Cascolan said his clients – Marina Sula, Arlene Baltazar and Monette Briones – were thrilled to meet Tuason.

“Is Ms Tuason here for the long haul? We admit we have doubts, in the same way there were doubts when our witnesses started to cooperate,’’ Cascolan said in a radio interview Sunday.

“We don’t know what happened in the past few months. What’s the real motivation? Who sent her there? Is this voluntary? Is this part of the plan? Was she consulted? Is this part of the defense plan before she cooperated? We don’t know where Ms Tuason is coming from. Please try to understand if we have some doubts,’’ he added.

Cascolan said Tuason’s reasons for coming home to tell all about the scam — her love for her grandchildren and desire to right a wrong — were valid.

“But at what point did she have conscience?’’ he said, adding that the thought that she could be part of defense strategy crossed their minds. “But we’re not accusing her. What if she was part of the defense strategy? What if?

But I’m sure the Secretary (Leila de Lima of the Department of Justice) and the NBI have more than enough safeguards against this.’’

The government sees Tuason’s affidavit and eventual testimony as bolstering the plunder complaint filed against Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr., Janet Lim Napoles and several others over the scam before the Ombudsman.

If at all, President Aquino said Tuason could reaffirm the affidavits of the whistleblowers, and “tie up’’ the conspiracy behind the funneling of P10-billion pork barrel to questionable non-government organizations.

Tuason said she played the role of Napoles’ bagwoman and personally delivered kickbacks from the racket.

She said she delivered bags containing millions of pesos to Estrada’s office in the Senate. On the other hand, Enrile’s former chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi’’ Reyes, received the money for him in restaurants and in her house.

Estrada, Enrile and Revilla have denied playing a role in, or pocketing money from the scam.

Estrada called Tuason’s act an attempt to “save her skin’’ and dared her to present proof she delivered the money to his office. Enrile has yet to comment on Tuason’s move.

Cascolan, however, said that the three whistleblowers were “excited’’ and “looking forward’’ to meeting Tuason personally.

“They feel vindicated because they have the same statements. There’s collaboration. In effect, this will help the case,’’ he said.

If at all, Cascolan reckoned that Tuason’s testimony would be valuable only to the Ombudsman’s preliminary investigation of the plunder complaint.

After all, the National Bureau of Investigation had filed the complaint, and the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee already got an idea what legislation to craft to plug loopholes in the system, he said.

“It will strengthen the case, but it’s not needed in speeding up the charges,’’ he said.

Cascolan said that only the Ombudsman, which has been conducting the preliminary investigation, could grant Tuason immunity.

Like the whistleblowers, Tuason has been provisionally admitted into the Witness Protection Program. Meantime, the whistleblowers’ request for immunity has yet to be granted, he said.

“They’re still respondents. While they’re giving statements, they have to respond to the charges. Which we find irregular because it’s hard for a witness to answer charges based on her statement. This should be cured this early,’’ he said. “They have no immunity as of now.’’

In The Know: Ruby Tuason Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:09 am | Saturday, February 8th, 2014


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‘I set up parties for politicians’Ruby Tuason with Janet Lim Napoles during happier days in 2009. FROM YAHOONEWSINFO.COM By Nancy C. Carvajal, PH DAILY INQUIRER. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Ruby Chan-Tuason is facing plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel and Malampaya Fund scams.

Tuason is one of the respondents in the P10-billion scam involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund allegedly engineered by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

The whistle-blowers named Tuason Napoles’ conduit to Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada.

According to the record of principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy, Tuason received P60 million from Napoles’ JLN Corp., although it was not clear whether she received it for Enrile or Estrada.

Aside from Enrile and Estrada, Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. was also charged with plunder in the pork barrel scam.

In separate affidavits, the whistle-blowers tagged Tuason a close friend of Napoles and a regular visitor in her many homes. In her affidavit, whistle-blower Marina Sula said: “I often see [Tuason] in our office at JLN Corp. at the Discovery Center. She also attends the events of Madam Janet Napoles. There were a few times that I saw her receiving cash from Napoles. One time, I was asked by Madam Napoles to bring money to [Tuason’s] house and she herself received the money.”

According to Nova Kay Macalintal, another whistle-blower, Tuason was also a regular visitor at Napoles’ North Pacific Plaza condominium in Bonifacio Global City. “I know Ruby Tuason because she always goes there. One time, I saw Ate Jenny (Napoles) handing her money before leaving. Sometimes, I escort her to the lobby of the condominium.”

Luy’s mother, Gertrudes, said she knew Tuason as a close friend of Napoles. “I didn’t know if she was a [government] official or what her job was,” she said.

Tuason is also among those charged with plunder over the alleged misuse of P900 million from the Malampaya Fund. She allegedly received P242 million in kickbacks from the fund. During the filing of the plunder case in October last year, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the investigation against Tuason’s principal in the Malampaya Fund scam was almost done. She also hinted that the principal was a relative of Tuason.

Tuason is known to be a core member of Masa Ang Riwasa ni Erap, a group of women who played a decisive role in former President Joseph Estrada’s presidential campaign and are closely attached to former First Lady Dr. Loi Ejercito Estrada.

A few weeks after President Estrada was sworn to office, Tuason was appointed Estrada’s social secretary with the rank of presidential assistant. An astute marketing strategist and a seasoned public relations practitioner, her appointment came a week after the installation of her husband, Carlos “Butch” Tuason, as chair of the Philippine Sports Commission.

Tuason has three sons: Bernie, Ito and Franco. Her late husband was the first cousin of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

She also played a key role in the financial logistics of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration’s Team Unity senatorial slate in the 2007 elections.

Arroyo’s lawyer and spokesperson, Ferdinand Topacio, has said the former first gentleman had no dealings with Tuason. Inquirer Research (Sources: Inquirer Archives)

Jinggoy feels betrayed by close friend of Estradas By Maricar B. Brizuela, Norman Bordadora 2:51 am | Saturday, February 8th, 2014


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Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA -Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada said he felt betrayed that a longtime family friend would do this to him.

Reacting to erstwhile suspect Ruby Tuason’s dramatic emergence as a state witness in the P10-billion pork barrel scam who would reportedly deliver damning evidence against him, Estrada said Tuason, a former social secretary of his father and a family friend of long standing, must be doing it “to save her own skin.”

“I am quite sad that she came out into the open without any basis. At our expense, just to save her own skin… she will surprise everyone and fabricate stories. That’s not right,” Estrada said in a phone interview.

Prove it

He dared Tuason to prove that she gave him millions of pesos in kickbacks from his pork barrel entitlements.
“She should have to prove that she gives me money in the Senate and that she gives me money at my residence,” he said.

Estrada was largely reacting to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s narration on Friday of the highlights from Tuason’s explosive affidavit that De Lima said further strengthened the government’s evidence against Estrada and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.

Repeated calls and messages to Enrile for a comment on Tuason’s affidavit were left unanswered as of late afternoon Friday.

Evidence furnished by a host of whistle-blowers led by Benhur Luy, a former aide of alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, led to the filing of plunder charges against Estrada, Enrile, Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., Napoles and dozens of other respondents that included members of the staff of the legislators implicated in the scam.

Named as conduit

Tuason—who served as social secretary to Estrada’s father, deposed President and convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada who is now mayor of Manila—was named by the whistle-blowers as Napoles’ conduit to Sentors Enrile and Estrada.

Estrada, Enrile and Revilla have denied any wrongdoing with regard to the use of their pork barrel allotments, officially known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Estrada denied that Tuason was on his staff or that he had authorized her to deal with Napoles on his behalf in the disbursement of his PDAF.

“I never authorized anybody for that matter to deal with Napoles,” he said.

Estrada said that if Tuason had received money from Napoles, none of it went to his pocket—it all went into hers.

“She admitted getting money. She said she gave it to me in the Senate. My goodness! How can she give it to me in the Senate? She passed through [the basement] parking?” he said.

“The only reason why she wanted to be met by my driver, my security guard at the basement parking was because she was bringing food,” he said.

But he acknowledged that Tuason’s brother, Ralph Chan, was a consultant in his office.

“She asked me to hire him,” Estrada said.

Estrada said it was actress Lorna Tolentino, who introduced him to Napoles, not Tuason, as the latter claims.

“I didn’t know Napoles in 2004 [when Tuason supposedly introduced them]. I only knew Napoles in 2008… through Lorna Tolentino during the wake of Rudy Fernandez [Tolentino’s husband],” he said.

“Lorna is a living witness. You can ask her,” Estrada added.

Two reasons

Estrada mentioned two reasons that could have led Tuason to testify against him and directly involve him in the pork barrel scam.

One was that he refused to give her money when she asked for some after she fled to the United States to escape the controversy.

“I once called her in October. I already knew then that she already left… I was asking her how she was. And then, toward the end of the conversation, she was already asking money from me,” Estrada said.

“I told her, ‘What will I give you? Both of us are facing charges.’ That’s why she got upset with me,” he said.

Questionable transactions

Estrada said Tuason must have succumbed to pressure from the National Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Ombudsman, who he said followed Tuason to the US and talked to her there.

He said Tuason had many questionable transactions that would have made it quite easy for government investigators to pressure her to talk.

“And when they came back, it was all ironed out. She’s already in the Witness Protection Program,” he said.

Estrada believes there was a “sinister” plan to make sure he, Enrile and Revilla “went down” in the pork barrel scam.

“The way I see it, the case against us must be so weak—because it’s all based on hearsay—that they got a witness who’s willing to testify against us just to save her neck at our expense,” he said.

Likened to Ocampo

Estrada’s father, the Manila mayor, said he was confident that his son will be able defend himself against the charges.

“These witnesses are oftentimes used by some people to bring others down,” he said of Tuason’s surfacing as a state witness and implicating his son.

According to Manila City Hall information officer Diego Cagahastian, the mayor likened Tuason to banker Clarissa Ocampo, one of the witnesses who testified against him in his impeachment trial.

Cagahastian quoted the elder Estrada as saying that “like Ocampo who was used by the opposition to vilify him and remove him from the presidency, there might also be a group of people behind Tuason’s return to the country and turning state witness in the pork barrel scam.”

The ousted President was also quoted by Cagahastian as saying that “Ocampo was able to invest in a big Japanese restaurant” after his ouster.

“It means that she (Ocampo) made money,” the elder Estrada was quoted as saying.

Ocampo, a senior executive at the defunct Equitable Bank, testified during the ex-President’s 2000 impeachment trial that she was just a foot away from Joseph Estrada when the latter signed the bank documents of the controversial Jose Velarde account.

Ocampo’s testimony helped in clinching the case for the prosecution against Joseph Estrada who was ousted in the second Edsa People Power Revolution in January 2001 after his impeachment trial was aborted. He was convicted of plunder and sentenced to a jail term of up to 40 years in 2007, but was immediately pardoned by his successor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Not his social secretary

The disgraced ex-President, who was elected mayor of Manila last year, confirmed that he was friends with Tuason and her late husband, Butch, for a very long time. He had appointed Butch as chair of the Philippine Sports Commission in 1998.

But he denied that Tuason served as his social secretary. He said she was a mere Malacañang staffer handling regular office matters.

He described Tuason’s job as mainly coordinating catering requests whenever there were events or activities in Malacañang, said Cagahastian.

The mayor also said that he and Tuason “haven’t seen nor talked to each other for a long time.”


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