Jinggoy: Tuason won’t incriminate me

'She can testify as long as she wants.... I can fight it out in court,' the senator says of his alleged moneybags in the pork barrel scam

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Jinggoy Estrada downplayed the possible testimony of the socialite who allegedly received millions of pesos in kickbacks on his behalf in the pork barrel scam. 

Reacting to a Rappler exclusive report, Estrada dismissed the statement of players in the pork barrel scam case that Ruby Tuason has been sending feelers about her desire to cooperate with authorities. (READ: Erap’s ex-aide, Ruby Tuason, to testify?)

“She can testify as long as she wants. I am very confident she will not say anything against me. I can fight it out in court,” Estrada told reporters on Wednesday, February 5. 

Tuason, who served as social secretary of President Joseph Estrada, is Senator Estrada’s co-accused in the plunder case over the scam. Former aides-turned-whistleblowers of alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles said Tuason received rebates intended for Estrada and Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile. (READ: Pork Tales: A story of corruption)

Tuason sneaked out of the country after the scandal broke out.

Asked if he is in touch with her and knows her whereabouts, Estrada said, “I don’t know.”

In the Rappler report, sources familiar with the case said Tuason is under pressure from family members to turn herself in. The Court of Appeals freeze order on her bank accounts was also another factor that led her to consider telling all about the scam.

“She wants to come clean and divulge what she knew on the scam. It’s the social stigma and the shame to her family,” said the source quoted in the report.

Missing link to Estrada, Enrile?

Tuason is seen as a key link that could pin down Estrada and Enrile in the case. While documents show that the senators funneled their pork barrel funds to Napoles’ fake non-governmental organizations, none of the whistleblowers could testify that the lawmakers personally received the money.

Besides the pork barrel scam, Tuason faces a separate plunder complaint over the Malampaya fund scam, where she supposedly got the biggest commissions amounting to P242 million. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has said that Tuason received the money on behalf of a “mysterious principal.”

Tuason was married to the late Butch Tuason, the cousin of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo and a close friend of former President Estrada.

The Rappler report showed Tuason’s deep ties to Estrada’s family. 

Aside from working for the former President, Tuason supported the 1998 candidacy of the elder Estrada. The woman described as a “refined, well-heeled, and well-connected” socialite was also a campaign contributor when Senator Jinggoy Estrada ran for his second Senate term in 2010. She gave a donation of P2 million.

If Tuason testifies against the senators, she could bolster the whistleblowers’ accounts, which Estrada has dismissed as flimsy.

“The charges leveled against [me] are not supported by hard facts and evidence, but merely by bare allegations of secondhand information, hearsay, malicious suspicion, and speculations,” Estrada said in his counter-affidavit submitted to the Ombudsman.

Estrada’s defense, like Enrile’s and Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr’s, relies heavily on the claim that the whistleblowers forged his signatures in the pork barrel documents. He blames the Commission on Audit and the implementing agencies for failing to vet the fake NGOs. 

“Witnesses for the complainant confessed under oath in one of the Senate inquiries of their extensive falsification of documents and forgery of signatures,” Estrada said. – Rappler.com