Former presidential spouse Mike Arroyo, who has so far evaded plunder charges, could be the recipient of hundreds of millions of pesos from the Malampaya Fund scam of Janet Lim-Napoles, officials indicated to the Inquirer on Thursday.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the National Bureau of Investigation Special Task Force on Thursday filed plunder cases against 24 people including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the alleged misuse of P900 million in revenues from the operation of gas fields off Palawan province.
“Here we are again in another act of faith and courage. Let us all keep the faith,” De Lima said after a Mass at the NBI before the filing of the newest plunder charges involving abuse of state funds.
“This leniency of control displayed by the President in the use of and access to an essentially presidential discretionary fund made possible the plunder of such fund either intentionally or through gross inexcusable negligence,” she said, referring to Arroyo.
One of those charged Thursday was Ruby Chan Tuason, whose husband is a cousin of Mike Arroyo. Tuason allegedly received P242 million in kickbacks from Napoles for a still “unidentified principal.”
“The former case is made all more credible in light of the fact that the recipient of the major share in kickbacks amounting to almost P243 million coursed through Ruby Tuason remains unknown,” the NBI said.
Tuason in earlier case
Tuason was also a respondent in the earlier plunder case in the P10-billion scam involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) engineered by Napoles. She was the alleged conduit of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. The two senators, along with Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., were among those charged with plunder.
“We are almost done with our investigation against the (Tuason) principal and would be charged with plunder later on,” De Lima told the Inquirer. When asked about the identity of Tuason’s principal, De Lima hinted that the person is a relative of Tuason.
“The keyword is Tuason,” De Lima said.
Another Inquirer source who is also privy to the investigation said “the money was for FG (first gentleman) as payment for 2007 election expenses,” the source said.
Based on the documents submitted by the NBI to the Ombudsman, Tuason received money from Napoles’ JLN Corp. eight times through withdrawals from the accounts of the businesswoman’s NGOs.
Team Unity logistics officer
Tuason played a key role in the financial logistics of the Arroyo administration’s Team Unity senatorial slate in the 2007 elections.
A member of the team, who refused to be named for fear of reprisal, said that Tuason was visible during high-level meetings of the administration coalition as she was known as the wife of the late former Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chair Butch Tuason, Arroyo’s first cousin.
“She was assigned to handle the group’s ad placements,” said the source.
Only two of Team Unity’s 12 candidates won—former Senators Edgardo Angara and Joker Arroyo—while a third, Juan Miguel Zubiri, resigned after serving the first half of the six-year term of Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III who was declared the rightful winner of the 12th and final seat.
In their separate affidavits, the pork barrel scam whistle-blowers tagged Tuason as a close friend of Napoles and a regular visitor in her mansions.
Benhur Luy, the principal whistle-blower in the P10-billion PDAF scam, said Tuason received the “rebates” from Napoles on behalf of Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.
Close Napoles friend
In her affidavit, another whistle-blower, Marina Sula, said: “I often see her (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 I saw her receiving cash from Madam Janet Napoles. One time, I was asked by Madam Janet to bring money to her house where she herself received the money.”
According to Nova Kay Macalintal, another whistle-blower, Tuason was likewise a regular visitor at Napoles’ home at 18-B North Pacific Plaza condominium in Fort Bonifacio, Global City.
“I know Ruby Tusaon because she always goes there. At one time, I saw Ate Jenny handing her money before leaving. Sometimes, I escort her to the lobby of the condominium,” said Macalintal.
Luy’s mother, Gertrudes, said she knew that Tuason was a close friend of Napoles. “I don’t know if she was an official or what her job was,” she said.