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MANILA, Philippines – Did Ruby Tuason just clear herself in the P900-million Malampaya Fund scandal but drag her late brother into the process?
Tuason, touted as the key that will link senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and his resigned chief of staff Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes to the pork barrel scam, practically claimed no knowledge about the misuse of the Malampaya Fund, based on the testimony she gave to the National Bureau of Investigation.
However, she could have inadvertently or might have intentionally dragged a family member into the case, identifying him as the other key that could unlock the secrets of the Malampaya Fund scandal.
The only caveat is that Tuason’s brother is no longer around to tell his side of the story.
Tuason supposedly got the biggest windfall from the Malampaya Fund mess amounting to P242 million. Pork barrel whistleblower counsel Levito Baligod said she has volunteered to return P40 million of kickbacks she got from Napoles. It was unclear if the kickbacks came from the pork barrel or the Malampaya Fund.
Links to the Palace
In her affidavit published in full by Rappler (see below), Tuason recalled that sometime in 2009, alleged pork barrel queen Janet Lim Napoles asked her if she had any connections in Malacañang. Tuason told her that she would ask around.
The affidavit was subscribed and sworn to on Feb 4, 2014 at the Philippine consulate in San Francisco. It was signed by deputy consul general Jaime Ramon T. Ascalon.
Tuason said she mentioned Napoles’ request to her brother “Remy” who, in turn, told her that he might be able to find someone who had links to Malacañang. The president at the time was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“After a couple of weeks, Remy told me that he found someone. I asked him who this person was and he said, Atty Jess Santos,” Tuason told head agent Daniel Daganzo, chief of the NBI International Operations Division.
Shortly after, Tuason said Remy requested “if he could use my house for pick-up of the money for Atty Jess Santos. I agreed because he was my brother.”
Tuason said that it was only later when she found out that the “deliveries of money in my house..were for a DAR (Department of Agrarian Reform) project.”
She said she would establish later on that the money was in connection with the Malampaya Fund diverted to the DAR supposedly to help farmers affected by the successive typhoons in 2009. (Read: How the Malampaya fund was plundered)
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 kept from her by her brother.
With Tuason’s testimony, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has said they are closer to identifying the other people who benefited from the Malampaya Fund apart from Napoles. Santos is supposedly the link that would connect the Malampaya Fund puzzle to a higher official. Santos was former spokesperson and lawyer of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Tuason Arroyo. (Read: Mike Arroyo’s lawyer linked to Malampaya fund scam)
Santos has denied in a television interview that he knows Tuason. Arroyo’s current counsel, Ferdinand Topacio, also castigated De Lima for insinuating that the former First Gentleman had something to do with the Malampaya Fund.
Tuason’s affidavit also gave a peek into how she regarded Napoles and how she conducts business.
When asked if Napoles knew about Remy’s connection in Malacañang, Tuason said she did not.
“There was no need because all that Janet Napoles was interested in was the issuance/approvals of the papers needed for the release of the Malampaya Fund to her NGOs. Besides, she has the habit of name-dropping, which made me avoid mentioning names to her.”
Whistleblowers said Napoles is expert at identifying people she could use as conduits in her kickbacks-for-pork-barrel scheme. However, Napoles had the tendency to drop the conduits once she personally got to know the principals.
In search of political contacts
Tuason would somehow suffer the same fate.
Shortly after meeting Napoles, Tuason said she asked to be introduced to her political contacts, in particular, Estrada and Reyes. It was through Reyes that she got to know Enrile.
Tuason said she was conduit for Estrada from 2004 until 2008, when Estrada came to personally know Napoles during the wake of actor Rudy Fernandez, a close friend of Estrada.
A few days after that introduction, Tuason said, “Senator Jinggoy Estrada asked me for the phone number of Janet Napoles. Based on the entries of accounting records of Benhur Luy, the office of Senator Jinggoy Estrda appeared to have directly dealt with Janet Lim Napoles because money intended for delivery to him were since then received by his secretary Ms Pauline Labayen and no longer me.”
By this time, however, Tuason had found another client in the person of Enrile. – Rappler.com