Jinggoy: Ruby Tuason asked money from me when she fled to US
Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada turned the tables on socialite and state’s witness Ruby Tuason, saying that Tuason asked him for money when she fled the country at the height of the pork barrel scam investigation.
During Estrada’s bail hearing from plunder on Monday, Tuason said she fled to the United States in August 2013 for fear of her own life.
Tuason said Estrada called her up when she was abroad. Tuason said she asked for help from Estrada to be referred to a good lawyer, but Estrada said he could not help her because they were “in the same boat.”
In an interview after the hearing, Estrada clarified that before she fled, Tuason had pleaded that he not lose support for her.
Estrada also said what Tuason asked for was not referral to a lawyer but money to help her in her case.
“I decided to call her at kumustahin when I was here and when she was in the States. Sabi ko, ‘Tita Ruby, kumusta ka na?’ ‘Ah mahirap magtago. Natatakot ako. I fear for my life,’ sabi niya. ‘Natatakot akong makulong,’” Estrada quoted Tuason as saying.
“And fast forward at the end of our conversation, humihingi na siya ng pera sa akin. ‘Baka pwede kang magpadala ng tulong sa akin.’ Kaya iyong sinasabi niyang humihingi siya ng tulong, hindi. Hindi siya humihingi ng tulong sa abogado, humihingi siya ng pera sa akin,” he added.
Estrada said he found it ludicrous that Tuason was asking money from him when she is the richer one after she purportedly earned kickbacks from the alleged Malampaya fund scam.
“Ang tanong niya sa akin, ‘Wala ka bang ipadadala sa akin dito?’ So sabi ko, ano ang ipapadala ko dito eh ang dami-dami mong pera, ang dami mong kinomisyon diyan sa Malampaya Fund. Ikaw ang mas maraming pera eh,” Estrada said.
He said he was amused that Tuason could make lies even under oath before the antigraft court.
He denied Tuason’s allegations that she delivered bags of kickbacks to Senator Estrada’s house and to his office at the Senate.
“She’s very amusing – amusing in the sense that she can invent stories, she can invent lies in the courtroom,” Estrada said.
Asked for his reaction to Tuason’s testimony that she wanted to tell the truth than value her friendship with the Estradas, Jinggoy said Tuason only wanted to keep away from being put in jail.
“She wanted to save her own skin. She didn’t want to go to jail. Sinabi ko noong araw, sige ikulong niyo ako, haharapin ko ang lahat ng kaso ko. Hinarap ko at kasalukuyan kong hinaharap ang mga paratang laban sa akin,” Estrada said.
For his part, Jinggoy’s father, former President, now Manila mayor Joseph Estrada denied that Tuason was his social secretary when he served as President.
He said Tuason was better known as a “commissioner” for putting commission on the catering services she handled when she worked in Malacanang.
“During my time, she’s not even my social secretary, she’s just my commissioner… Her husband happens to be a close friend of mine.. Sa Malacanang, (siya ang) namamahala lang ng catering at saka kung minsan sa bahay. She’s better known as commissioner, pati ‘yung mga catering kinokomisyon niya. Tinataasan presyo tapos may komisyon sya dun,” Joseph Estrada said.
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 court that she served as Estrada’s agent in 2004 and in 2008, and that she received a 5 percent and 10 percent commissions from Estrada’s pork barrel project in the respective years.
She had returned to government her kickbacks amounting to at least P40 million as a condition for her to be state witness and become immune from suit.
But her immunity does not save her from prosecution over another corruption scandal – the alleged Malampaya fund scam, where farmer storm victims were purportedly deprived of P900 million in assistance from energy funds after all these funds were allegedly pilfered through Napoles’ bogus foundations.
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 but for a still unknown recipient.
The charges over the pork barrel scam have resulted in the detention for plunder of Estrada and Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile, as well as of former representatives Rizalina Seachon Lanete and Edgar Valdez.
Accused mastermind Napoles is also detained for plunder. She was earlier sentenced to life in prison for the serious illegal detention of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy.
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