Trillanes’ conspiracy theory ‘far out’ – De Lima
MANILA, Philippines – The justice secretary on Monday, February 17, dismissed as “far out” the suspicions aired by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV that alleged pork barrel scam witness Ruby Tuason is out to protect Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.
Trillanes, an arch-rival of Enrile, has been talking about the possibility of Tuason being a Trojan horse in the investigation ever since she refused to categorically pin down Enrile in the multi-billion-peso operation that funnelled lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund to fake organizations.
“With due respect to Senator Trillanes, I understand his sentiments and reservations, but I doubt the veracity of his suspicions that JPE is responsible for the surfacing of Ruby Tuason, or that JPE is probably the one providing the P40 million that she has offered to return [to government]. I think these are far out suspicions,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told reporters in a mix of English and Filipino.
In her testimony before the Senate blue ribbon committee on February 13, Tuason said she personally delivered Senator Jinggoy Estrada’s commission from the scam, but did not have the same direct account of Enrile receiving kickbacks.
This prompted Trillanes to call Tuason’s testimony as an “Enrile show” that is “meant to sabotage” the investigation.
He pointed out that Tuason’s lawyer, Dennis Manalo, used to be connected to the law firm of Enrile’s brother in law, and this could deliberately making Tuason’s testimony against Enrile weak.
Tuason is a co-respondent of Estrada, Enrile, and several other lawmakers and their staff in a plunder complaint filed by the Department of Justice before the Ombudsman in connection to the PDAF misuse.
“I think the reason Senator Trillanes is a bit frustrated is because he didn’t get the answer that he wanted, especially to the question: Do you believe JPE is involved?” De Lima said.
“First of all, his question calls for an opinion when the witness is supposed to be testifying on the basis of his or her personal knowledge or direct knowledge, which she already did in her affidavit and when she testified before the Senate. So what is her personal knowledge? That she brought kickbacks to Senator Jinggoy and the ones for Senator JPE through Attorney Gigi Reyes,” the justice secretary explained.
De Lima said “opinion evidence is not admissible,” except when it is an expert that is testifying, which Tuason was not. Tuason, she said, was just stating her personal knowledge.
“We cannot impose it on her to say categorically that, yes, Senator JPE knows, when she knows only up to a certain point,” she said. “I have been saying anyway that there’s enough evidence [from the whistleblowers. Ruby Tuason’s testimony is just added value.”
De Lima said the important part of the Tuason’s testimony about Enrile is the two instances when she said Enrile came to pick up Reyes, his chief of staff, after the latter got the kickbacks from Tuason.
“Senator Miriam [Santiago] is correct on that point that these are clear indications that Senator JPE knew [about the kickbacks],” she said.
Enrile: I left Siguion Reyna back in 60s
In an interview at the Senate, Enrile also belied Trillanes’ allegations. He said he has long left the Siguion Reyna, Montecillo & Ongsiako law firm, where Tuason’s lawyer Dennis Manalo was a partner.
He said the 1965 presidential election led him to leave the law office.
“I severed my connection with that law office in 1965. I was a senior partner in that law office in 1965 but I had to separate myself because during that election, the law office, all my partners were supporting Diosdado Macapagal. I was the only one supporting [former President Ferdinand] Marcos. We decided to part ways.”
“I have never gone back to the former law office except twice or thrice over that period of time. I don’t even know who are the lawyers there now,” Enrile added.
Enrile refused to comment on Tuason’s testimony, saying he does not want to discuss the case in public.
Asked about Trillanes and Santiago’s efforts to pin him down, Enrile said, “I wish that they will appear as private prosecutors, they themselves. I will welcome them to appear as witnesses or private prosecutors. All of them.” – with a report from Ayee Macaraig/Rappler.com