Estrada may face Cunanan at pork barrel scam hearing

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

MANILA -- Senator Jinggoy Estrada expressed willingness to face the government's newest witness, former Technology Resource Center (TRC) deputy director general Dennis Cunanan, on the alleged pork barrel scam probe on March 6.

Estrada said he would like to see Cunanan personally testifying in the Senate to hear his side of the story about the alleged diversion of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fake non-government organizations (NGOs) of businesswoman Janet Napoles.

He said he has not, even once, talked to or even met his latest accuser.

The senator said the allegations Cunanan made against him are highly impossible.

Estrada said there is no reason for him to be wary of Cunanan facing the Senate blue ribbon committee.

"I cannot imagine how possible it is for him to call me over the phone to confirm my signature. I think it is improper for a stranger to call a senator and ask a senator to confirm a document and the signature of that person," Estrada said.

Cunanan, who is now the provisional witness of the government, said in a sworn statement that he has talked separately to Estrada and Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. on the phone and that the two allegedly insisted that TRC honor Napoles' NGOs.

But Estrada was also quick to explain that he will be asking for the approval of his lawyer first as this might affect their case. Counsels of Estrada consistently opposed the idea of the senator attending any of the hearings.

Estrada denounced Cunanan's claims as he stood by his position that he has not dealt with any official of any implementing agencies tapped to oversee the funding allocation of his PDAF and this included the TRC.

Estrada, who is being accused of pocketing pork barrel funds, has inhibited himself from the Senate Blue Ribbon investigation, although he answers accusations hurled towards him during the hearings through the media.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, confirmed that Cunanan will be invited to attend to the hearing.

Guingona also saw no reason to invite anew socialite Ruby Tuason, who further dragged Estrada and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile into the scam, to the next hearing.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, for her part, is willing to secure actor Mat Ranillo III if he will testify for the government.

"He can be an ordinary witness if he has valuable information to offer to us," she said.

Tuason earlier claimed Ranillo delivered P11.97-million kickback to Estrada, which was allegedly received by his former staff Pauline Labayen at the residence of Justa Tantoco in the upscale Dasmariñas Village, Makati City.

Tantoco is the former chief-of-staff of former Senator Loi Estrada, the lawmaker's mother.

Estrada, Revilla, Enrile, Tuason, Cunanan and Napoles are facing plunder raps before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the scam. (Camille P. Balagtas/Virgil B. Lopez/Sunnex)

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