Estrada, Guingona quarrel over Tuason’s testimony

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Teofisto Guingona III engaged in a heated discussion Tuesday after Estrada insisted that the Blue Ribbon committee chairman had prejudged the outcome of the Senate investigation into the alleged pork barrel scam.

"How sure are you that she is not lying?" an angered Estrada told Guingona.

Estrada was referring to Ruby Tuason, a longtime friend of his family, who returned to the country recently to testify against him in relation to the plunder charges the senator is facing before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Last week, Tuason appeared before the Senate Blue Ribbon panel, which Guingona chairs. She testified that she personally delivered Estrada's kickbacks from the bogus projects funded by his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation. Guingona called Tuason's testimony as a "three-point, buzzer-beater winning shot."

"It was not a pre-judgment, not at all. It was referring to the weight of the testimony of the witness. If there was any hurt, such was not the intention," Guingona said.

"The transcripts of the hearings should prove this fact. And, I believe I speak for myself as well as for our peers who have attended the hearings when I say that we have done our utmost best to ensure that the dignity and honor of our colleagues involved in this issue are preserved and protected," Guingona said.

Estrada responded that Guingona should not conclude the case based solely on Tuason's testimony.

"Before you conclude, you should consider all the other evidence," he said.

"I refuse to discuss the details because this not the proper forum but I deny the contents of the affidavits of Mrs. Tuason. You and I know that the affidavit of Mrs. Tuason was practically empty. It was all generalizations, no details," Estrada added.

"I do not agree with your opinion. Let's leave at that," Guingona said.

Guingona said the investigation of his committee into the alleged PDAF scam has become more difficult due to the alleged involvement of three senators.

Aside from Estrada, Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. and Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile were also accused of plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Senate President Franklin Drilon had to suspend the session for "one minute" to break the tension between the two senators. Session however resumed after more than an hour.

Estrada said he has expressed his sentiments to Guingona over the long break. "All I requested was a fair Blue Ribbon hearing," Estrada said.

Senator Vicente Sotto III meanwhile proposed that the Senate ethics committee handle an investigation involving a member of the chamber. Guingona said he had no problem with Sotto's proposal.

Senator Francis Escudero defended Guingona, saying that the Blue Ribbon's chairman does not necessarily reflect the opinion of all the committee members.

"Hindi naman niya ini-impose ang kanyang decision o opinyon sa mga miyembro so para sakin, karapatan niyang sabihin kung anong ninanais niya basta't kaya niyang ipagtanggol kung ano yung pinanggalingan nun mula sa kanyang pananaw," Escudero said. (Sunnex)

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