Nation


Tuason admits delivering money to Estrada




Posted on February 14, 2014


PORK BARREL scam witness Ruby C. Tuason yesterday admitted before the Senate blue ribbon committee that she personally handed over kickback money to Senator Jose "Jinggoy" E. Estrada.

"I delivered [kickback money] here in the Senate. I think I did it at least twice," Ms. Tuason said replying to a question by Blue Ribbon committee chairman Senator Teofisto D. Guingona III.

"I used a handcarry [bag] one time ’yung may gulong (the kind that has wheels). I think if the amount is small, let’s say mga one or two million pesos kasya sa (it will fit in the) bag," she added.

During the Senate inquiry on the anomalies regarding the use of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers, Ms. Tuason narrated how she delivered money to Mr. Estrada’s office in the Senate.

Ms. Tuason said she would pass by the Senate building’s back entrance, which is a passage reserved for senators.

She said she would then be escorted by the senator’s security.

"I pass by the side entrance and not in the main entrance because they [the security] might open my bag," she said."I do not know what he tells the guard but I am dropped at the senators’ entrance, and then I go all the way inside," she added.

Ms. Tuason was asked to identify from a picture who fetches her from the entrance of the Senate. She pointed out to a certain Alfredo delos Reyes who appears to be a member of Mr. Estrada’s security.

"It’s usually in the afternoon. I never come in the morning," Ms. Tuason said.

FOOD, NOT KICKBACK
Earlier, Mr. Estrada said Ms. Tuason only brought him food during her visits in the Senate. The senator even wanted the footage from Senate’s closed circuit TV cameras to be reviewed to prove his claims.

As she said in her affidavit, Ms. Tuason said she was introduced to alleged PDAF scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles by her late husband in 2004.

"Sometime in 2004, my late husband, Mr. Carlos Tuason, introduced me to Janet Napoles as a rich woman who might be interested in buying my house in Bel-Air Village, Makati City," Ms. Tuason said.

Ms. Tuason said she had a good professional relationship with Ms. Napoles.

She said Ms. Napoles later requested to be introduced to Mr. Estrada whom Ms. Tuason considers to be a family friend.

Ms. Tuason said Mr. Estrada initially did not want to be introduced to Ms. Napoles. She said Ms. Napoles told her to relay to Mr. Estrada that she will give 40% commission for every business that she will get from the senator.

Ms. Tuason said Ms. Napoles eventually had a project assigned to her, where the businesswoman allegedly gave P5.7 million in commissions to the senator.

Ms. Tuason claims Mr. Estrada took the money but returned it afterwards.

Ms. Tuason also testified that she also delivered kickback money to Jessica "Gigi" G. Reyes, the former chief-of-staff of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. However, Ms. Tuason said he never got to talk directly to Mr. Enrile regarding PDAF.

Mr. Guingona welcomed the testimony of Ms. Tuason.

"What happened... is very, very important for the prosecution of the case. For the first time, we have a witness giving testimonial evidence that she personally handed over kickback money to a senator," Mr. Guingona said in a press conference after the hearing.

"I don’t think that was acting. It was an honest act of contrition," he added.

Meanwhile, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Ms. Tuason’s testimony is "bull’s eye."

"You are a perfect and intelligent state witness," Ms. Santiago told Ms. Tuason. -- Maria Laura V. Angeles