Tuason: I felt like Judas Iscariot
MANILA, Philippines – Mostly calm and composed, whistleblower Ruby Tuason turned emotional when asked why she decided to come clean.
At the Senate blue ribbon committee on Thursday, February 13, Tuason, who served as the conduit between alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and lawmakers, turned teary-eyed when she explained why she came forward to confess all she knows.
Tuason left the country after the pork barrel scandal broke out last year. Bureau of Immigration records show she left Aug 26, 2013, on a flight bound for Hong Kong en route to the United States. She returned to Manila as a government witness on February 7.
At the Senate hearing, she explained she was by herself most of the time in the United States which got her thinking about her role in the scam.
"I was so ashamed of myself. I felt so guilty," she said. "My grandchildren would always call me on Skype and they'd always ask me, 'When are you coming home?'"
She said she missed her family and soon realized she wanted to rectify her wrongs.
"I don't want to die with my grandchildren being ashamed of me so felt I had to do something and I have to correct my mistake," she said, her voice cracking.
Tuason said she also became more guilty after she saw the devastation wrought by Super Typhoon Haiyan. She said she spent many days in church praying but knew it was not enough to clear her conscience.
"I was in church every day asking for forgiveness but I said it couldn't just all be lip service. I have to sacrifice something," she said.
Tuason also said her coming forward is her way to apologize to the people of the Philippines and said she cannot stand to die with "80 million Filipinos hating me."
"I felt like Judas Iscariot," she said.
Tuason also shared more details about her involvement in the scam as an agent. She said aside from introducing Napoles to lawmakers or their chief of staff, she said she also relayed information to and from both camps.
"I was informed [by lawmakers' staff] there is X amount of budget and I would tell Benhur," he said. "He'll take it from there… he or Napoles will make a list. They take care of it. I don't interfere because I don't know anything about that."
Tuason said she was hoping Estrada would assist her with a lawyer but said "he never helped me."
"I sacrificed my values for friendship," she said.
'I'd rather die'
Tuason is willing to return the commissions she said she got from working with Napoles, which she estimates to be worth P40 million.
She said she would have to "liquidate something to get the money," adding her only asset is her house.
"I'd have to sell my house," she said. "It's a very small price to pay."
She said she knew returning to the country and speaking would be a "big risk" with no assurance she would be taken in by the government's Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Presently, Tuason is a provisional state witness. She has asked for immunity from lawsuits, and seeking to be under the WPP permanently.
Under the WPP, the witness and members of her family to the second degree are entitled to security protection. But the Department of Justice (DOJ) explained, declaring her as a state witness is no longer under their control but the decision of the Ombudsman.
Because the case has since been submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman, which is now in charge of the preliminary investigation and the fact finding, the DOJ says it is the Ombudsman that needs to determine whether Tuason's testimony is "material" and can be used for prosecution in the case.
Tuason made it very clear she would not accept anything less than being taken in as state witness. She said she'd likely die of a heart attack or high blood if she had to go to jail.
"If I don't get immunity, I'd ask the Lord to take me," she said. "I'd rather die." - Rappler.com