Ruby Tuason got millions from ex-husband's death
MANILA, Philippines – What ill-gotten wealth is Senator Jinggoy Estrada talking about?
The camp of pork barrel scam witness Ruby Tuason tried to explain on Thursday, March 13, that she had the capacity to acquire the “Malampaya mansion” in Dasmariñas Village in Makati that the senator alleged as one of the properties she acquired using commissions from illegal transactions with government.
Dennis Manalo, Tuason's lawyer, provided Rappler with documents that show she was the beneficiary of almost $2 million in insurance proceeds from the death of her estranged husband, Carlos "Butch" Tuason, in 2008.
Manalo brushed aside allegations made by Estrada that many of Tuason’s properties were funded by kickbacks from the Malampaya fund scam. (READ: Tuason's 'Malampaya mansion' can pay for P40M – Jinggoy)
In his speech on Wednesday, Estrada mentioned 9 properties acquired and investments made by Tuason, supposedly using kickbacks from the pork barrel and Malampaya fund scams. Manalo addressed questions on 7 of them.
He was questioning the credibility of Tuason, who has been admitted by the justice department as a “provisional witness” and whom he said is being coached by the administration to pin him and two other opposition senators down. Tuason and Estrada are co-respondents, along with 36 others, in a plunder complaint over the diversion of lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund to fake non-governmental organizations.
Manalo said Tuason benefited from the “large amount of insurance proceeds from the death of her ex-husband” who was Philippine Sports Commission chair during the administration of President Joseph Estrada. His ex-wife Ruby was appointed social secretary with the rank of undersecretary under Estrada. (READ: The secrets of Ruby Tuason)
After the death of her estranged husband, Tuason received a notice of payment dated July 22, 2008, informing her that she would be the beneficiary of two insurance policies: one in the amount of over $1 million (equivalent to about P45 million today), and another in the amount of $752,958.90 (about P33.9 million). The letter from Great Southern Insurance Company was sent by professional claim examiner Shelley Tipton.
The Dasmariñas property was purchased the following year, in July 2009, for P45 million.
Estrada identified 3 other properties in the US allegedly funded by the Malampaya fund scam:
- A property in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, worth P6.3 million, purchased in 2008; supposedly transferred to her son's name in September 2013, two months after the PDAF scam was exposed
- A property in Oakland, California, USA, worth $150,000, supposedly purchased in September 2010; sold also in September 2013, two months after the PDAF scam was exposed
- Another house in Henderson, Nevada, USA
Manalo said Tuason owns "only 25% of the Oakland property," while the Henderson property Estrada referred to is not hers. "There is no such thing."
Estrada was, however, correct on the ownership of the Las Vegas property being transferred to Tuason's son. Manalo also said Tuason did not own properties in Valle Verde and Alabang, as alleged in Estrada's privilege speech.
Manalo said it was unfair to tag the P45-million property a “Malampaya mansion” because it was acquired in July 2009 – ahead of the December 2009 to January 2010 date when funds from Malampaya were supposedly transferred.
The Malampaya fund represents royalties from oil and gas operations in the waters off Palawan. As authorized by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, P900 million was taken from the fund to assist farmers adversely affected by natural calamities in 2009. But this was diverted to fake non-governmental organizations associated with Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind. (READ: How the Malampaya fund was plundered)
Manalo also pointed out that Rubysons Incorporated has a paid-up capital of only P5 million. This represents the amount of paid subscribed capital. This is contrary to what Estrada said in his privilege speech about the company having a capitalization of P80 million. “Saan galing 'yun?” Manalo asked. (Where’d he get that?)
He added that the high-end jewelry store in Solaire, said to be managed by Tuason’s niece, contains jewelry items “only on a consignment basis.”
Senate parking lot
Manalo likewise pointed out that the CCTV footage referred to by Estrada which showed a woman with a close resemblance to Tuason entering the Senate building was misleading. In her testimony sworn to on February 4, 2014, Tuason said that when she made her deliveries of kickbacks from the pork barrel scam, she used the “entrance in the parking lot” and not the main entrance of the Senate building.
In his privilege speech, Estrada said the Senate sergeant-at-arms' office found video of Tuason visiting 8 times in November and December 2008. In the video, Estrada pointed out that Tuason was carrying only her handbag and not a duffel bag as she initially testified.
Manalo, however, said the video shown of Tuason is of her at the Senate check-in security, and not the parking lot area. Senate sergeant-at-arms Jose Balajadia said their report covered only the last quarter of 2008 and that they have yet to review video for months before and after that period. He also earlier said that not all of the CCTV footage may be intact as some may have already been deleted.
Ruby’s brother Remy Chan was also mentioned in her affidavit as having been able to find someone who had links to Malacañang during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Her brother asked her for use of her house as pick-up place for the money intended for the Palace contact later identified as Attorney Jess Santos, the lawyer of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, a cousin of Tuason's husband.
It was only later when Tuason found out that the “deliveries of money in my house...were for a DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) project.” (READ: Ruby Tuason drags dead brother into Malampaya scam)
After each delivery, Tuason said her brother “would call someone and immediately after, it will be picked up.” Asked who got the money and who the intended recipient was, Tuason said the information was withheld from her by her brother.
Estrada hit Tuason for blaming her dead brother for the Malampaya fund scam. He said he found it hard to believe that the sickly Remy would be part of a scam when he was near his death since he was supposedly suffering from pancreatic cancer. Remy supposedly sought medical assistance from Estrada and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile between 2008 and 2010.
But Manalo said Remy died in 2010 from a heart attack. His photo taken in December 2009, shows him healthy, Manalo pointed out. He was very much "capable of dealing with [Janet Lim] Napoles and the Malampaya project," Manalo said.
Asked when his client will be back, he replied, "As soon as needed." Ruby Tuason is trying to negotiate the sale of her Dasmariñas property with buyers in the US, supposedly so she can return to government her P40-million pork barrel kickbacks.
She is now selling the Dasmariñas property for P300 million.
She has admitted receiving illegitimate sources of income from the pork barrel scam and she has offered to return what she got from "referral fees" paid by Napoles. Other than these, Manalo said, Ruby Tuason also has "legitimate sources of income." – Rappler.com