Ruby Tuason faces Senate ‘pork’ probe
Ruby Tuason, the accused-turned-pork barrel scam whistleblower, reads her opening statement ahead of her testimony at the Senate blue ribbon committee, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. Tuason, the former social secretary of then president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, is expected to tell all on the on the controversy. Video by INQUIRER.net’s Nestor Corrales
MANILA, Philippines — Ruby Tuason, who claimed to have personally handed kickbacks to a senator, faced for the first time the Senate blue ribbon committee to detail her involvement in the alleged P10 billion “pork barrel” scam.
Aside from Tuason, also invited to the hearing Thursday were principal whistleblowers Benhur Luy, Marina Sula, Merlina Sunas and Gertrudes Luy, as well as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
Tuason is a co-accused in a plunder case filed at the Office of the Ombudsman over the alleged anomalous disbursement of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund also known as “pork barrel” funds.
She immediately left the country when her name was dragged into the controversy and returned only last Feb. 7 after executing a 15-page affidavit about the scam at the Philippine consulate in San Francisco, California last Feb. 4.
In the affidavit she also submitted to the committee, Tuason claimed to have personally delivered commissions to Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada in the Senate and his residence in San Juan.
She said she was also the one who picked up the commissions for Senator Juan Ponce-Enrile, which she delivered to Enrile’s former chief of staff, lawyer Lucilla Jessica “Gigi” Reyes.
Estrada, Enrile and Reyes are all co-accused in the plunder case at the Office of the Ombudsman.
Tuason said she personally knew Estrada because she was the social secretary of his father, then President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, while she and Enrile had been godparents in a wedding.
She said she and Reyes were friends before she even met the alleged scam mastermind, Janet Lim-Napoles.
It was her husband, Tuason said, who introduced her to Napoles sometime in 2004.
“My involvement in the transactions of Janet Napoles with the PDAF started when I agreed to introduce her to Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce-Enrile, the latter through his chief of staff, Atty. Jessica “Gigi” Reyes,” she said in her affidavit.
Sometime in 2004, Tuason said, she related to Estrada that Napoles wanted to meet him regarding his PDAF.
“Janet Napoles told me to relay to Senator Jinggoy Estrada that she (Napoles) will give 40 percent (less witholding tax of 5 percent thereof) for every business handled by her,” she said.
“Janet Napoles also offered to advance a partial payment upon the said lawmaker’s written request to the Department of Management and Budget, another partial payment upon release of Special Allotment Release Order and the full balance upon release of Notice of Cash Allotment.”
Tuason said she then informed Senator Estrada about Napoles’ offer and the senator, on Sept. 7, 2004, agreed to “course” his P37.5 million PDAF through Napoles “for which I received the sum of P1.5 million and P4.5 million or a total of P5.7 million for Senator Jinggoy Estrada.”
“But for reasons known only to Senator Jinggoy Estrada, that transaction was cancelled and so Senator Jinggoy Estrada caused the return of the P5.7 million in cash and then I returned it over to Janet Napoles.
But based on the accounting record of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy, Tuason said the transaction was “consummated through a certain Mr. Matt Ranillo showing the delivery of the sum of P11.970 million to a house at No. 1564 Mahogany Street, Dasmarinas Village, Makati City.”
Tuason identified the person who resides in that address as a certain Justa Tantoco.
After that “cancelled” transcation, Tuason said Senator Estrada had completed other transactions with Napoles involving his PDAF.
She said she all knew about Estrada’s commissions since she personally delivered them to the senator’s house in San Juan or in his office in the Senate.
“When I deliver Senator Estrada’s share at this Senate office, I was instructed to pass through the entrance to the senators’ parking space so that the bag containing the money will not be opened,” Tuason said.
Tuason said she had been involved in the transactions between Estrada and Napoles until 2008 when the two had allegedly dealt directly with each other.
Unlike Estrada, she said, her role on Enrile’s PDAF was through Reyes.
Both Estrada and Enrile denied Tuason’s allegations.