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Ruby Tuason flies back to US

Ruby Tuason INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Ruby Tuason, a former Malacañang social secretary who has implicated Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and an aide of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scandal, left for the United States on Sunday to talk to prospective buyers of her Forbes Park home so she could reimburse kickbacks she had received from the transactions.

Tuason’s lawyer, Dennis Manalo, said: “She had to go back to the US to talk to buyers of her house so she can return the P40 million she promised to turn over to the government in exchange for immunity from the plunder charges.”

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Manalo said Tuason, a confessed bagman of scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, left for Hong Kong on March 2 on board Cathay Pacific flight CX 902 and a has a return ticket dated April 5.

Manalo said the Department of Justice (DOJ) was aware of Tuason’s departure and that an agent of the National Bureau of Investigation was traveling with her.

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Justice Secretary Leila de Lima declined to confirm the lawyer’s statement due to the confidentiality clause of the DOJ Witness Protection Program (WPP). She said that the announcement of Tuason’s departure was not authorized.

Tuason has been provisionally accepted as state witness after she issued a sworn affidavit detailing how she delivered kickbacks for her old friends—Estrada and Enrile’s former chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes.

Manalo said the travel of Tuason was coordinated with authorities in the DOJ, WPP and NBI.

“There’s no hold order that bars her from leaving and in our request for permission from the WPP it was stated that she will make herself available anytime if her presence is needed by any agency investigating the pork barrel scam,” he said.

“Clarificatory inquiries before the Ombudsman was done, but if they need her even before her scheduled return to the country, she will comply,” Manalo said.

Asked if her departure was a preemptive move in the event that her application as state witness is denied, Manalo said, “She will be here and face the charges.”

He added that Tuason had complied with all the requirements for full acceptance as state witness.

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“There was no anomaly in her departure and it was not also hush-hush, because we are not hiding anything,” Manalo said.

Tuason voluntarily returned to the country on Feb. 7 from the United States, where she had fled after the racket involving the alleged diversion of congressional allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund into kickbacks and ghost projects broke out.

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Tuason left PH to work on returning P40-M ‘pork’ kickback

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TAGS: flies back, Philippines, plunder charge, pork barrel scam, Ruby Tuason, US
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