Ruby Tuason: I’m not involved in Malampaya fund scam
Pork barrel scam whistleblower Ruby Tuason on Monday said she had no direct involvement in the alleged Malampaya fund scam.
Testifying against detained Senator Jinggoy Estrada during his bail hearing from plunder, Tuason took a long time before answering a question from lawyer Dennis Buenaventura.
Buenaventura, lawyer for accused pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, asked Tuason if she is involved in any other alleged corruption scheme besides the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
“So it’s only on the PDAF, nothing else?” Buentaventura asked Tuason.
A coolheaded Tuason paused for a few seconds as if hesitating before saying: “I’m not the one involved in the Malampaya.”
Senator Estrada, who was present in the hearing, laughed. He had accused Tuason of being the mastermind in the alleged scheme of siphoning at least P900 million from the royalties of the Palawan natural gas field meant for aid to storm victims into ghost projects for kickbacks.
The prosecutors led by Atty. Hazel Decena Valdez objected to the defense lawyer’s question, saying the Malampaya scam is not material in the plunder case.
The defense lawyers led by Buenaventura tried to open questions about the Malampaya scam when he asked Tuason to read a portion of her Feb. 2014 sworn affidavit where she mentioned what she knew about the Malampaya fund scam.
Tuason initially refused to do so, invoking her right against self incrimination as she is not yet granted immunity over the said scam, but the court instructed her to read the said portion.
Valdez said the defense panel was trying to circumvent the earlier ruling of the court when it prohibited questions about the Malampaya fund scam because it is not relevant in the PDAF scam case.
“Are we doing a reading exercise here?… They’re circumventing the earlier ruling of the court!” Valdez said.
Associate Justice Alex Gesmundo told the defense panel to stick to the information of the case instead of venturing into other charges not related to Estrada’s plunder rap.
Tuason maintained that she felt it her duty to tell the truth about the alleged pork barrel
“I really prayed for discernment… I felt it was my duty to tell the truth… I wanted to clear my conscience… (But) I didn’t want to just jump into it,” Tuason said.
Buenaventura then asked her if she only decided to turn state witness to be granted immunity from prosecution for being the self-proclaimed agent of Senator Estrada and another accused, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
Tuason said it was her own volition to become state witness, saying it wasn’t because of legal advice from her lawyers.
“The final decision was on me, not on my lawyers,” Tuason said.
Sought for a reaction, Estrada in an interview after the hearing said Tuason was “lying through her teeth.”
“She’s most guilty in the Malampaya fund scam… She’s a coached witness. She’s lying through her teeth. Siya ang mastermind ng Malampaya fund scam. As I’ve repeatedly said, ang kanyang bahay ang kanyang Malampaya mansion,” Estrada said.
The detained senator said he hoped Tuason would not be granted immunity over the Malampaya scam.
The social secretary of Jinggoy’s father, former President Joseph Estrada, Tuason had admitted before a Senate hearing that she delivered bags of kickbacks to the Senate office of Estrada, who is detained for plunder over the alleged diversion of his PDAF to ghost projects for kickbacks through accused mastermind Janet Lim Napoles’ bogus foundations.
She also admitted before the Sandiganbayan that she served as Estrada’s agent in 2004 and in 2008 and that she had received a 5 percent and 10 percent commissions from Estrada’s pork barrel projects, respectively.
She had returned to government her kickbacks amounting to at least P40 million as a condition for her to become state witness and thus immune from suit.
But her immunity does not save her from prosecution over the alleged Malampaya fund scam, where farmer storm victims were deprived of P900 million in assistance from energy funds after all these funds were purportedly pilfered through Napoles’ bogus foundations.
Tuason had applied for immunity while the Ombudsman is investigating the Department of Justice complaint over the Malampaya scam.
Napoles had tagged Tuason as showing her a list of government funds amounting to P25 billion, and recommending the P900 million Malampaya fund that would be coursed through the Department of Agrarian Reform to earn kickbacks.
Tuason is part of the Malampaya fund scam complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman charging plunder against Napoles, former President Gloria Arroyo,former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, former Budget secretary Rolando Andaya and his undersecretary Rafael Nieto, former DAR secretary Nasser Pangandaman, DAR finance officer Teresita Panlilio, and Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos.
Arroyo was implicated by virtue of an Executive Order she issued authorizing the release of the said energy funds into aid for storm victims.
Tuason, meanwhile, was implicated as receiving P242.775 million from Malampaya for a still unknown recipient.
The charges over the pork barrel scam have resulted in the detention for plunder of senators Estrada, Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr., as well as of former representatives Rizalina Seachon Lanete and Edgar Valdez.
Accused mastermind Napoles is also detained for plunder. She was sentenced to life in prison for the serious illegal detention of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy.
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