More than meets the eye

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By Andy H. Hagad

Bottom Line

Monday, February 17, 2014

WATCHING and listening as Ms. Ruby Tuason related on television what she allegedly knew about Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile’s involvement in the Napoles Priority Development Assistance Fund (Pdaf) Scam, I could not help but think how much relationships may have played a role in her “confession.”

In her opening statement, Ms. Tuason said that she came out of hiding and decided to tell the truth because she could not bear the guilt of her being involved in the scam, and because she did not want her grandchildren to suffer the shame of being related to her. Having said that she then proceeded to tell the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee how she personally handed out millions in kickbacks given by Mrs. Janet Napoles to Jinggoy Estrada, and others to Ms. Gigi Reyes for Senator Enrile.

After almost five hours of grilling, Senator TG Guingona described Ruby Tuason’s testimony as a “three-point shot buzzer-beater on a winning game”; Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago called it a “bull’s eye” while Senator Antonio Trillanes said it was “disappointing.”


Let’s try to analyze their varying conclusions.

Assuming Ms. Tuason actually testifies in court, and assuming her testimony and those of whistleblowers Luy, Suna & Co. hurdle the cross-examination of the defendants’ lawyers, Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile may presumably be found guilty of a crime together with Janet Napoles. The testimonial and eyewitness evidence would have shown that Mrs. Napoles promised huge kickbacks to the participating senators, that she was able to have them give millions from their Pdaf to her bogus non-government foundations, in return for which she gave part of the money to them as kickback.

The evidence will include documents showing how the Pdaf money was transferred to these NGOs. Without Ms. Tuason testifying that she personally gave the kickbacks to Estrada and to Ms. Gigi Reyes for Enrile, however, proof beyond reasonable doubt that the two senators participated in and illegally benefited from the kickbacks cannot be established. With her supposed eyewitness testimony, however, the outcome becomes radically different. So why did Senator Trillanes express disappointment at her testimony?

For one, while Ruby Tuason claimed to have given millions in kickbacks to Estrada and Enrile, she was very vague about the amounts the two actually received. She claimed she got about P40 million as her five percent commission from Mrs. Napoles. Sen. Trillanes noted that if she got that much aggregate commission from her five percent, then Jinggoy and Juan Ponce Enrile must have received more than P50 million from their reported 40 percent kickbacks, enough to charge them with the crime of plunder.
On the other hand, Ms. Tuason’s affidavit vaguely described the kickbacks received by the two senators only as more than P9 million. Putting two and two together, Trillanes noted that a criminal court will have inadequate evidence to charge Estrada and Enrile with plunder. The conflicting statements made under oath will not prove the crime beyond reasonable doubt. They will likely be convicted of a lesser, bailable crime.

It seems that while deciding to come clean in order to protect her family’s name, Mrs. Ruby Tuason also seems to want to protect Senators Jinggoy and Juan Ponce Enrile whom she admits to be close personal friends, from being charged with plunder. While she reveals just enough for Justice Secretary de Lima to recommend her inclusion in the government’s Witness Protection Program, and therefore escape criminal prosecution, she is vague enough with her revelations so that the charge of plunder (which is non-bailable) will not stick on and inconvenience her senator friends.

There seems to be more to the “Ruby Tuason Story” than meets the eye.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 17, 2014.


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