Tuason offers to return P40M, lawyer says
Former Erap aide will bare more on pork barrel scam, says Baligod
MANILA - Ruby Tuason, a former social welfare secretary of then-President Joseph Estrada, is expected to reveal details of what she knows about the pork barrel scam when she appears at a Senate hearing on Thursday.
Atty. Levito Baligod, lawyer of the whistleblowers in the multibillion-peso scam, told ANC Talkback on Monday that he has already spoken with Tuason, who returned to the Philippines Friday and has offered to turn state witness.
"Before her arrival, I talked to her lawyers. Kanina, I talked to her for 3 hours," Baligod said. "She confirmed the statements of the whistleblowers. She admitted that she in fact served as agent of some legislators, in fact received the kickback of the legislators and she in fact delivered their share personally."
He said Tuason's testimony is "not only corroborative but confirmatory."
"[She] confirmed allegations that she received the kickback on behalf of certain principals. The more interesting part in her statement is that she claimed she received more than what is listed in the ledger of Benhur Luy," he added.
"For one senator, Benhur Luy listed only about P9 million, but Ruby claims she delivered P35,625,000. With regard to the other senator, Benhur Luy listed only P72 million, but Mrs. Tuason said she received 171 million," Baligod said.
He added that more will could be revealed in the Senate hearing this week.
"Ruby Tuason presented some details and I believe it will be proper that her lawyers will present them on Thursday's Senate hearing," he added.
Tuason has been linked to both the P10-billion pork barrel scam of Janet Lim Napoles and the Malampaya fund scam.
She was charged with plunder along with former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, former Budget Secretary Rolando, and several others for allegedly pocketing the funds obtained as royalties from the natural gas project off the seas of Palawan.
Mrs. Arroyo has denied that she is the unidentified principal of Tuason, whose late husband is a cousin of Mike Arroyo.
Tuason has tagged Senators Juan Ponce-Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada in the pork barrel scam.
Baligod described Tuason as a "very credible" witness. "Because for one, there is an admission against interest. imagine a person admitting participation in a crime, so to me, she is credible."
He said Tuason volunteered to return at least P40 million of what she received from the pork barrel scam.
Baligod said Benhur Luy was present when he met Tuason. He added that his client and Tuason knew each other. "There was fondness toward each other."
"When she was conversing with Benhur Luy, and I was trying to observe their behavior toward each other, talagang nakikita mong matagal na silang nagkakilala. Sinasabi ni Benhur ay dinudugtungan niya. Mrs. Tuason was even telling us earlier na 'Di ba Benhur, iyung last time na pumunta ka sa bahay ko sa Dasmarinas was on this day.' So ganun po yung conversation nila kanina," he said.
He said Luy was invited by the NBI as part of its validation process.
"In the affidavit of Mrs. Tuason, she reported a larger amount, so the NBI was trying to reconcile the apparent inconsistency or variance pero walang material difference, because in the statement of Benhur Luy, he admitted that sometimes, he is unable to record amounts given directly by Mrs. Napoles to Mrs. Tuason and also the amounts given at Pacific Plaza Tower," he explained. "So iyung nailista lamang, iyung natanggap ni Mrs. Tuason sa Discovery Center Suites."
Tension in the Senate
Senator Francis Escudero, meanwhile, said the Senate hearing on pork barrel scam on Thursday will be conducted "as we have done in previous occasions."
He believes senators must read Tuason's affidavit and go back to transcripts of the Senate pork barrel scam hearing before the hearing on Thursday.
"What's more important is the opportunity of the public to know what's going on (about the pork barrel scam)," he said.
Escudero said the situation in the Senate has become more tense. "Medyo. Nagkainitan ng konti because some senators think others are riding on it (the pork barrel scam)," he said.
He said the Thursday hearing will most likely be a "full house, with the exception of those who expressly inhibited themselves."
"Anytime, they can take that back voluntarily and decide to appear -- Estrada, Enrile, Revilla," he said.
Escudero said Tuason's demeanor at the Senate hearing might indicate if she is telling the truth.
"Usually, sa ordinaryong pakikitungo natin sa tao nakikita mo na kung nagsisinungaling, kinakabahan. Kung talagang kabado lang ba siya pero nagsasabi ng totoo, kung paano niya sinasagot iyung tanong, kung mailap ba, kung umiiwas ba, kung normal na tanong ayaw sagutin," he said. These things, these indications to the best of my ability, I would use as basis."
In comparison to Luy whom he described as a credible witness, Escudero said Napoles was "extremely evasive" when she appeared at the Senate. "She refused to answer even the simplest of questions that would have only called for ordinary knowledge on her part."
"At iyung kwento nyang bali-bali at balu-baluktot sa kaugnay sa pinaggalingan ng pera nila, lahat iyun 'pag pinagtagpi-tagpi mo, pati lahat ng nanood, hindi kapani-paniwala ang kanyang sinasabi," he added.
"Korte lamang ang pwedeng magsabi kung sino ang guilty o hindi, pero unlike proceedings with the DOJ, unlike proceedings in the Office of the Ombudsman, sa Senado may pagkakataon ang publiko na maging bahagi, maging parte ng diskusyon," Escudero said.
"The Senate is not hindering any investigation. In fact we're paving the way for it at saka para malaman ng publiko kung ano ang mga nagaganap. Ang problema, kapag walang partisipasyon ang mga kababayan natin, madaling nakakalimutan ang mga anomalya eh, lalo na kung wala na sa headline, wala na sa diyaryo, nababaon sa limot at hindi nabibigyan ng pansin, subalit habang nabibigyan ng pansin iyun, napupwersa ang mga dapat gumalaw na gumalaw talaga at tapusin ang trabaho," he said. - with ANC