MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Ruby Tuason is now under the government’s provisional coverage as a state witness in its cases against private and public officials linked to the pork barrel scam, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Friday, February 7.
De Lima explained that the provisional status means Tuason is not yet granted full coverage under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the justice department pending further evaluation of her testimony.
The WPP grants immunity from prosecution. With a provisional status, this immunity is also pending. The Office of the Ombudsman will have the final say, de Lima said.
De Lima confirmed that Tuason, an associate of alleged pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim Napoles, has executed an affidavit containing “very vital information” that could pin down the accused in the plunder complaints filed with the Ombudsman. De Lima did not elaborate. (READ: 38 charged in pork barrel scam)
The provisional WPP status, said de Lima, was granted after Tuason committed to return a certain amount of her share in the siphoning of lawmaker’s money. Tuason has implicated said lawmakers in her statement, de Lima said.
Tuason arrived Friday morning in Manila and is now under the custody of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
De Lima said Tuason first relayed her intention to testify in January. On February 4, a National Bureau of Investigation team met with Tuason in California, where Tuason was temporarily based, to interview her, according to De Lima.
Tuason’s lawyer Dennis Manalo said she was protected by the NBI team throughout her entire trip from California to Manila. ABS-CBN reported that she arrived in Manila at 3:40 am Friday on board Philippine Airlines flight PR 105.
Enrile, Estrada, Reyes
Tuason, whose testimony could pin down two senators and one resigned chief of staff in the biggest corruption scandal in recent years, sought WPP coverage in exchange for her revelations. (READ: Ex-Erap aide wants to turn state witness)
She arrived at the Office of the Ombudsman Friday morning at about 11 am to submit and re-affirm her sworn affidavit which she authenticated with a Philippine consular official in California.
Should Tuason decide to tell what she knows, Levito Baligod, lawyer for whistleblowers in the pork barrel scam, said it would be an important testimony.
Baligod said, “Her testimony [can be] enough to pin down the three,” referring to senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, and his chief of staff Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes. (READ: What Ruby Tuason knows) – Rappler.com