Tuason brought bags of cash to Jinggoy
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – “Provisional state witness” Ruby Chan Tuason told the Senate that she gave kickbacks to Senator Jinggoy Estrada in 2004 and 2008 in different venues including his house and the Senate.
Tuason appeared before the Senate blue ribbon committee on Thursday, February 13.
Tuason detailed her 15-page affidavit before the committee, saying she gave Estrada bags of cash with P1 million to P2 million being the “smaller amounts” of the cash deliveries. The money represented his commissions from alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
Tuason said she first delivered cash to Estrada in September 2004 after Napoles asked her to be the conduit for a P37.5 million peso project from Estrada’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Estrada’s kickback was worth P5.7 million.
She said she went to the Senate at least twice in 2008 to deliver millions to Estrada.
In her testimony, Tuason also disclosed the following:
- A former aide of Senators Bongbong Marcos and Loren Legarda also served as a "middleman" in the pork barrel scam (READ: Tuason tags another ex-aide of senators in scam)
- Napoles used her to get connected to powerful people but eventually dropped her. (READ: Napoles used, dropped me - Tuason)
- She has no direct knowledge of the Malampaya fund scam (READ: Tuason not privy to Malampaya fund scam)
Tuason said she personally delivered cash to Estrada in his office at the Senate passing through the driveway to avoid the metal detectors in the building. The socialite said she delivered cash to Estrada in the Senate "at least twice" in 2008.
Estrada would send an aide to pick her up at the Senate ground floor, Tuason said. "Mabigat ho ang bag eh…I have a back problem," she said upon questioning from Senator TG Guingona.
“If the amount is big, we put it in the duffel bag. If it’s small, just P1 million or P2 million, we put the cash in a bag.”
She then described Estrada's office – the sala, the ante room – telling Guingona that she and Estrada would chat after the delivery.
The money came from Napoles, who had a contract with Estrada for certain projects, she said.
Outside the Senate, Tuason also delivered P1 million to Estrada in his favorite bar, Zirkoh, on Wilson Street, Greenhills, San Juan. The Estradas are from San Juan.
"He called me up one time. He needed some cash," Tuason recalled. She said she was with Napoles and her husband during the phone call. They all delivered the P1 million to Estrada in the bar.
Tuason described herself as a “go-between” of Estrada and Napoles. Yet she said she had no record of the cash deliveries, and the exact dates and amounts.
The socialite said Estrada initially did not want to deal with Napoles but changed his mind when Napoles said, “’Tell him I give commissions of 40%.’ I relayed that message.”
“I gave the commission to Jinggoy but he returned it. I gave it in his house in Greenhills. I don’t know the street. He received it. No one else was there when he received it,” Tuason said.
Tuason said for reasons known only to Estrada, he cancelled the transaction and returned the kickbacks after “maybe one week or two.” Principal whistleblower Benhur Luy confirmed that Napoles told him that the transaction did not push through.
Tuason said, “Sabi ni Mrs Napoles, ‘Sayang.’” (That’s a waste.)
Tuason said she then heard that the transaction eventually happened through actor Mat Ranillo III, which she said she confirmed upon seeing Luy’s records.
At this point, Luy filled in the details. He said he and Napoles’ driver delivered cash to No. 1564 Mahogany Street, Dasmariñas Village in Makati. The amount was P11.97 million.
Luy said, “Yes po, ako po naghatid ng pera sa Dasma. Nagbilang po kami ng pera sa harap ni Lyn Ranillo, asawa ni Mat Ranillo. Nandoon si Pauline Labayen, nagpakilalang staff ni Senator Estrada. And then may babae po doon, si Justa Tantoco daw.” (Yes, I delivered money in Dasma. We counted it in front of Lyn Ranillo, wife of Mat Ranillo. Pauline Labayen, who introduced herself as Estrada’s staff was there. And then there was a woman who they identified as Justa Tantoco.)
Tuason said she knew Justa Tantoco as they both belonged to the MARE or the Masa ang Riwasa ni Erap group founded by Estrada’s mother, former Senator Dr Loi Ejercito Estrada. Tuason said Tantoco was the chief of staff of Loi.
‘I introduced Napoles to Jinggoy’
Tuason insisted that she introduced Estrada to Napoles, contrary to his statement that it was actress Lorna Tolentino who introduced him to Napoles during the 2008 wake of actor Rudy Fernandez. Tolentino is the widow of Fernandez.
“I introduced Jinggoy to Napoles kasi Napoles mahilig sa mga artista. (She is fond of celebrities.) During the wake of Rudy Fernandez, I introduced them. I was never given the impression they met before,” Tuason said.
After introducing the two, Tuason said Estrada asked for Napoles’ number and since then, she stopped being a conduit for the senator.
‘I risked death row for Estradas’
In her opening statement, Tuason said she could have opted not to return to the Philippines from the US. She addressed Estrada’s criticism of her motive and statements.
“If I am the extortionist he claims me to be, why did I offer to return the assets [I got from the kickback]? Yes, I asked [Jinggoy] what help he can extend to me. [I was] faced with rejection and proof of a spoiled friendship.”
“I was once willing to stand death row because of my trust in his family but now I side with the country,” Tuason said referring to the ouster of former President Joseph Estrada in 2001. She was the social secretary of the former President.
Tuason said her conscience forced her to come forward.
“It would be hypocritical to say that I was not motivated by commissions from Mrs Napoles. I was, the mistake was grave, selfish. My conscience could no longer take it.”
“For the sake of a better country, I'm ready for your questions.” – Rappler.com