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Ruby Tuason to detail kickbacks

Testifies Thursday at Senate pork probe
/ 03:47 AM February 13, 2014

WHISTLE-BLOWERS MARCH Whistle-blowers Ruby Tuason (center), Benhur Luy, Merlina Suñas, Arlene Baltazar and Marina Sula—guarded by Witness Protection Program agents—walk toward the chapel of the NBI in Manila on Wednesday. RAFFY LERMA

MANILA, Philippines—On the eve of her appearance before the Senate blue ribbon committee, Ruby Tuason met for two hours with five whistle-blowers to provide details on how she delivered alleged kickbacks to Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, through his aide, and personally to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Tuason, who confessed she arranged lavish parties for Janet Lim-Napoles, the supposed mastermind behind the racket, and later became her bagman, will read a prepared statement before submitting herself to questioning by the senators, according to a source who attended the meeting in the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters.

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“The speech will give the gist of her involvement and reason of her coming out and more,” the source said.

The source said the meeting between Tuason and the whistle-blowers led by Benhur Luy mostly covered “confirmation of events and transactions.”

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“Tuason did not have her own records but confirmed the listings and numbers that appeared in the daily transaction records of Luy,” the source said, referring to transactions with the lawmakers.

Tuason, who is known to cook for friends, brought with her homemade sandwiches that she handed out during the meeting. Lawyers from the Department of Justice asked her to identify each whistle-blower who had earlier given testimony about the kickbacks.

Also present during the meeting at the NBI were Marina Sula, Merlina Suñas, Arlene Baltazar and Gertrudes Luy, all former employees of Napoles who have turned against her.

Tuason, who is a fellow suspect of Enrile and Estrada in the plunder complaint being investigated by the Office of the Ombudsmand, confirmed statements by Luy and Sula about deliveries Tuason made to Enrile’s former chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, in her house in Dasmariñas Village in Makati City, the source said.

Commissions

On Monday, Tuason also met for five hours with the whistle-blowers at the NBI and corroborated statements about the delivery of kickbacks for the use of the senators’ allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Tuason earlier confirmed to Luy that the commission she handed to Reyes for using Enrile’s PDAF was P77 million for the period 2007-2009, while Estrada’s was P35 million, according to the lawyer of the whistle-blowers, Levito Baligod.

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Luy had the same figure for the alleged Enrile commissions but his record for the money he gave Estrada was only P9 million. Baligod said this was because Estrada went directly to Napoles or used conduits.

Based on the records of the two witnesses, the first transaction by Tuason involving Enrile’s PDAF was P31.9 million coursed through the Department of Agriculture using Napoles’ bogus nongovernment organization—People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation—with special allotment release order No. BMB-E-04-04-068, dated Dec. 14, 2004.

Tuason’s figure for the amount given to Estrada was smaller because the senator used his former staff, Pauline Labayen, to collect his purported payoff. Estrada also had used as conduit for Napoles actor Mat Ranillo.

The widow of the late Carlos “Butch” Tuason, chair of the Philippine Sports Commission, left for the United States after news of the pork barrel scandal broke out in July last year. She returned on Friday, saying she wanted to clear her conscience and turn state witness.

Both Estrada and Enrile have denied any wrongdoing. Enrile said Tuason was only a “casual” acquaintance.

Expanded NBI probe

Also on Wednesday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the NBI was looking into the possible involvement of Mat Ranillo and Justa Tantoco, a friend of former Sen. Loi Ejercito, in the pork barrel scam following Tuason’s revelations.

“That’s being looked into because it’s our duty to investigate new information provided by this new whistle-blower, by the new state witness, and we need to pursue this,” De Lima told reporters.

She said the case involving Ranillo concerned the recovery of “sums of money” from certain transactions he had with Napoles. De Lima was referring to a 2005 legal dispute between Ranillo and Napoles’ JLN Corp. in which Ranillo was sued for payment of a vehicle.

A GMA News report said one of the JLN Corp. vouchers submitted by Ranillo to the court dated Aug.11, 2005, showed that Estrada received “payment for 50 percent of P30 million rebate charge” worth P1.14 million.

Asked about Tantoco, De Lima said she had no details yet but added that “perhaps if that is explored or pursued (on Thursday) at the Senate hearing we might have an answer.”

De Lima is expected to attend Thursday’s resumption of the Senate hearing.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma on Wednesday said the Palace was expecting Tuason to tell “nothing but the truth.”

“Perhaps, that’s also what our people, not just those in the government, want,” Coloma told reporters in Filipino.

“Even ordinary people have a very high interest in the outcome of this issue because they know that this involves the alleged misuse of public funds,” he said. “In all instances, we want—the people want—to know the truth because it’s that would give justice to this issue.”

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TAGS: Janet Lim Napoles, Philippines, pork barrel scam, Ruby Tuason, Senate probe
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