Tuason details ‘go-between’ role for Napoles, senators

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- Ruby Tuason is willing to return the P40 million she received as commission for acting as a "go-between" for alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and her alleged clients, Senator Jinggoy Estrada and Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.

Tuason said this on Thursday at the resumption of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing on the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

The potential state witness told the Senate committee that she met Napoles back in 2004 when the latter showed interest into buying her property in Bel-Air, Makati. It was then that Napoles asked her to be introduced to politicians, including Estrada.

Tuason said the first project she handled cost P37.5 million, wherein Estrada was to get a commission of P5.7 million. The money was delivered to the senator's residence at Barangay Greenhills in San Juan City but Estrada returned it in a week or two.

"Sabi sa akin ni Mrs. Napoles 'sayang'. Then after that, I heard that it was Matt Ranillo that did the project," Tuason said, referring to the former showbiz matinee idol.

Referring to the record of whistleblower Benhur Luy, Tuason said Ranillo delivered P11.97 million at 1564 Mahogany Street, Dasmariñas Village in Makati City. The owner of the residence was identified as Justa Tantoco, former aide of former senator Loi Estrada, mother of Senator Jinggoy.

Aside from Ranillo, Luy said Ranillo's wife, Linda, was also there. Luy said it was Pauline Labayen, the appointment secretary of Estrada, who received the payment. Luy said the Ranillo couple was close to Labayen.

Kickbacks for Jinggoy in handcarry bags

Tuason said that she had a transaction with Estrada on December 3, 2007 wherein she personally delivered money to Estrada's office in handcarry bags.

Estrada's staff would escort her so that she no longer needs to pass by the Senate's main entrance, which would require her to pass through metal detectors.

"Mabigat po ang pera. I have something wrong with my spine. I delivered here in Senate, at least twice, used hand carry bag, yung may gulong...I was usually met by one of his people, they would escort my car," she narrated.

Later in the hearing, Tuason identified Alfredo De Los Reyes, a security detail of Estrada.

One time, Tuason said, she, along with Napoles and her husband, delivered money for Estrada at comedy bar Zirkoh in Greenhills.

The transactions she had with Estrada lasted until 2008 until the senator apparently did not need a "go-between" with Napoles.

Tuason then said she introduced Napoles to Estrada at the wake of the late actor Rudy Fernandez. Fernandez died in June 2008. The next day, Tuason said, Estrada asked for Napoles's number.

"After that, dumirekta na siya." Tuason said of Estrada. "I saw Mrs. Napoles in the party of Senator Estrada a few times. They seem to be close," she added.

Tuason is a longtime friend of the Estrada family, being a former social secretary to former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Jinggoy's father.

Transactions with Enrile's chief of staff

Tuason also said that after she offered projects to Estrada in 2004, she also offered the same to Senate Minority Leader Enrile, through his chief of-staff, lawyer Jessica "Gigi" Reyes.

"I never got to talk to Enrile about his PDAF, only to Gigi Reyes. I told her about it in 2004 or 2005 during a Senate hearing on Joc-joc (Jocelyn) Bolante," Tuason said.

Tuason said she would deliver the money to several pricey restaurants, including Mamou.

Enrile earlier admitted to reporters that she met Tuason once in Mamou with his chief-of-staff present in the meeting. Enrile said they talked about a possible property purchase.

Tuason said Enrile would sometimes drop by during her meetings with Reyes and have a cup of coffee. Sometimes, he would pick up Reyes after their meeting.

Enrile and Reyes are facing plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman.

However, Enrile's archenemy Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said the senior senator cannot escape the charges against him because of his mere presence was already a "consent" for her chief-of-staff to receive kickbacks for him from the anomalous projects of bogus non-government organizations funded by their PDAF.

"In all those instances, did Senator Enrile behave and speak in a manner showing he knew you had a kickback transaction with his chief of staff? Did Senator Enrile indicate in any way that he disapproved of the kickback transaction between you and his chief of staff? If Senator Enrile was silent, under the Civil Code, his silence meant consent," the senator pointed out.

Santiago went as far as taking a personal swipe at Enrile, calling Reyes the senator's "querida" (mistress) who was "old enough to be his daughter."

Tuason said she was eventually cut out of the dealings when her contacts with senators were already in direct communication with Napoles.

'I felt like Judas'

Quizzed by Senator Bam Aquino, Tuason said she returned to the Philippines because she felt ashamed for what she did.

"Hiyang-hiya ako sa sarili ko. I felt so guilty. This is Judas Iscariot felt like. I don't what to die with 80 million Filipinos hating me," Tuason said.

"I don't want to die with my grandchildren being ashamed of me so I felt I had to do something and I cannot possibly right a wrong with another wrong," she added.

Tuason said she knew of the consequences she would have to face in case she is not accepted as state witness. She herself is facing plunder for her involvement in the PDAF scam.

"If I would die, by assassination or natural death, I can face my maker and say that I asked for forgiveness," she said.

Tuason said she was further pushed to testify after he saw the damage brought about by typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas last year.

"Nung nakita ko ang devastation ng, lalo ako na-guilty. Araw-araw, humihingi ako ng tawad sa simbahan," she told the committee.

Blue Ribbon chairman Senator Teofisto Guingona III said the committee is yet to schedule the next hearing because of the high-profile personalities to be invited.

Ranillo, along with Tantoco, lawyer Jess Santos and Energy Regulatory Commission chairperson Zenaida Ducut, have all been summoned to the hearing upon the request of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV. (Sunnex)

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