Tuason testimony enough to convict Enrile, says Santiago
First posted 6:31 pm | Saturday, February 15th, 2014
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s presence at meetings between his former chief of staff and bagman Ruby Tuason for alleged delivery of millions of pesos in kickbacks for him is proof of his guilt in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Saturday.
Santiago spoke a day after Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said that Tuason appeared to be protecting Enrile, as she repeatedly told the Senate blue ribbon committee during her testimony on Thursday that the senator never discussed commissions with her.
Tuason, who returned from the United States on Feb. 7 and offered to serve as state witness in the pork barrel scam case, told the senators that she handed millions of pesos to Enrile’s chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, at posh restaurants in Makati and Taguig cities or in Reyes’ house.
But in delivering kickbacks for Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Tuason said she went to Estrada’s Senate office and handed the money to him. She said she delivered P8 million to P10 million to Estrada in 2008.
Estrada has denied receiving money from Tuason, a former social secretary to his father, deposed President Joseph Estrada, who is now mayor of Manila.
Enrile, too, has denied receiving money from Tuason, but admitted that the confessed bagman of Napoles is a “casual acquaintance.”
“It is now obvious that Tuason is covering up for Enrile, so that the entire criminal liability for plunder could be shifted to Reyes alone. That is devious of Tuason, and heartless of Enrile. He is ready to sacrifice Reyes to save himself,” said Santiago, a former regional trial court judge.
In a Facebook post in September last year, Reyes decried what she called betrayal by Enrile’s camp after a lawyer for the senator told reporters that he didn’t authorize Reyes to act on his behalf in approving financing of development projects from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation.
“If indeed these statements are sanctioned by or coming from my former boss, then nothing can be worse than this kind of betrayal,” Reyes said.
Enrile has since been vouching for Reyes’ honesty and integrity.
Asked last week about the possibility of Reyes’ testifying against him, Enrile said, “What will she say?”
“I have faith in her honesty and integrity because she has been working for me for almost 25 years and there has never been any occasion when she violated that degree of rectitude expected from a public servant,” Enrile said.
Enrile has repeatedly denied having anything to do with the pork barrel scam.
Whistle-blowers led by Benhur Luy, former employees of Napoles, and now Tuason alleged that Enrile received millions of pesos in kickbacks from Napoles.
Like his colleagues Estrada and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., Enrile is facing plunder charges in the Office of the Ombudsman over the pork barrel scam.
Sought for comment on Santiago’s arguments on his alleged culpability based on Tuason’s statements, Enrile’s staff said he did not wish to make any.
Santiago cited the 1993 case People vs Camaddo to back up her argument on Enrile’s culpability in the scam despite Tuason’s testimony that she never discussed commissions and PDAF allocations with the 90-year-old senator when she was still delivering kickbacks to Reyes.
According to the Camaddo case, Santiago said, “it is not indispensable that a coconspirator should take a direct hand in the commission of a felony.”
“Even assuming for the sake of argument that Enrile was just sitting or drinking coffee or smiling fatuously, his mere presence is sufficient to convince the court to a moral certainty that he was the mastermind pulling the strings of Reyes, so that they could profit from the scam,” Santiago said.
Santiago said that during her interpellation, she purposely let Tuason insist on Enrile’s silence during the meetings, because she did not want Tuason to know that she had just given information crucial to the prosecution of Enrile.
“On TV and in novels, the hero always makes a big fuss when he scores a point during cross-examination. In reality the trial lawyer prefers to accept the testimony without fuss, so that the witness will not be able to change the damaging testimony in the course of the cross-examination,” Santiago said.
“Then the lawyer pounces on it by emphasizing the damaging testimony only when he submits his final memorandum to the judge,” she said.
Santiago added that she did not debate with Tuason the question of Enrile’s silence.
“I was confident that Tuason had already violated the rules on conspiracy under the Penal Code,” Santiago said.
“Although Tuason stood pat on her testimony that during those meetings, Enrile did not say anything, still Tuason’s categorical statement that Enrile was present is sufficient to pin down Enrile, under the principle of conspiracy in criminal law,” Santiago said.
The law merely requires the accused to perform an overt act in pursuance of the conspiracy, she said.
Citing the 1996 case Pecho vs People, Santiago quoted the Supreme Court as saying, “Such an overt act may consist of active participation in the actual commission of the crime itself, or of moral assistance to his coconspirators by being present at the time of the commission of the crime or by exerting moral ascendancy over the other coconspirators by moving them to execute or implement the conspiracy.”
Proof of conspiracy
Santiago added that the Penal Code provides: “A conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it.”
She said that even if Tuason said that Enrile did not say anything that would indicate his involvement in the scam, “the mere fact that Enrile sat at a table with the conspirators Tuason and Reyes is sufficient proof that he approved of their illicit transactions [involving] the pork barrel.”
“If we follow Tuason’s line of reasoning that Enrile did not say anything, still we cannot accept Tuason’s theory that Enrile is blameless. If he did not say anything in favor of the illicit transaction, then by the same line of reasoning, Enrile should have said something against the transaction,” Santiago said.
“If he disapproved, he should have remonstrated against his subordinate, and even slap her silly for dragging his name [into the scandal]. But he did not, [which proves] he is guilty by conspiracy,” she added.
Santiago said there was no reason for Enrile to be present in Reyes and Tuason’s meetings other than to assure Tuason that he had authorized Reyes to deal with her on his behalf.
“In the first place, why would a senator go out of his way to pick up his chief of staff? It is widely known that Enrile kept Reyes as his concubine. Why would he pick up his concubine when she was dealing with a conduit for illegal pork barrel releases?” Santiago said.
“Human experience teaches that there was no reason for Enrile to be present, unless it was to assure Tuason that he approved of the illegal transaction, and that he authorized his chief of staff to act on his behalf,” Santiago added.
Enrile has repeatedly denied having a personal relationship with Reyes, saying they had long professional ties until Reyes resigned in January last year. With reports from Nikko Dizon and Jerome Aning
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