The country needs more people like Ruby Tuason. So said Roman Catholic bishops on Friday as they commended Tuason’s sincerity after she appeared before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee investigating the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada was advised to resign or at least take a leave of absence following the “very” convincing testimony of Tuason, an anti-corruption advocacy group said.
Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, who was able to hear only portions of the hearing, said he hopes that Tuason’s appearance on the Senate investigation will help resolve the PDAF scam.
He added that Tuason appeared to be sincere in her testimonies compared to other whistle-blowers.
“We hope she is the channel of uncovering this corruption and remedying it,” Iñiguez said.
Before the members of the Blue Ribbon panel, Tuason admitted that she delivered Estrada’s pork barrel commissions four times.
She claimed two of the cash deliveries were made in the Senate and that she had to use a trolley at one time because the bag containing the money “was big.”
Citing corruption in the government, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco said that the Filipino people need more people like Tuason who appeared to be sincere in her testimonies.
“God bless her for her testimonies,” Ongtioco said.
Further, retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said that he believes “more on the testimony of Tuason than Benhur Luy.”
Cruz explained that Tuason has “personally done” what she revealed on the senate investigation while Luy was more on “documentations.”
“The testimony of Tuason is more loaded [and]concrete,” Cruz said.
Cruz added that he is still waiting for someone to come out “revealing more anomalies” on the pork barrel of the lawmakers.
He, however, asked why political allies of the Aquino administration were excluded from the scandal. “Only three people [Senators Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla] are being denounced here. This is some kind of enigma,” he said.
On the other hand, Cruz urged Tuason to return the kickbacks she received from the senators’ pork barrel.
“Everybody in this case [PDAF scam] must return [the money]that belongs to the government,” Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said.
Estrada told to quit
Dante Jimenez, founding chair of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) said if Estrada really wants to preserve the remaining integrity of the Senate, he should make the ultimate sacrifice and resign.
According to Jimenez, the testimony of Tuason on Thursday clearly put him in the middle of the PDAF controversy along with its alleged mastermind, businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
“Now that there is a witness that personally handed the pork barrel kickbacks to Estrada, the only thing left for the senator is to resign and save the Senate from further damage,” Jimenez said.
The VACC chair also pointed out that there is basis to suspect Estrada of being involved in what is considered to be the biggest scandal involving public funds in history, because it is not the first time that he was caught in such a mess.
He said the senator along with his father former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada were both accused of plunder in 2001 but only the older Estrada was found guilty.
Jimenez said that although Sen. Estrada was acquitted, his recent involvement in the multi-billion-peso PDAF controversy indicates a growing reputation of being a involved in corruption.
“The least he could do is to take a leave of absence and allow the Senate to recover from the damage it sustained from the pork barrel controversy,” he added.
Estrada rejected the calls and maintained that he sees no reason for him to do so since he has done nothing wrong.
‘It’s my job’
In a related development, Senate Blue Ribbon panel chair Teofisto Guingona 3rd dismissed Estrada’s claims that he is taking advantage of the senate PDAF hearing in order to gain political advantage at the expense of his colleagues.
Guingona insisted that his handling of the PDAF scam hearing Thursday is part of his job as head of the committee and he must ferret out the truth in the controversy.
“My job is to investigate, do they want me to just close, my eyes, my mouth and pretend that nothing happened?” Guingona said in a radio interview.
He was reacting to Estrada’s criticisms over his supposed “unfair” handling of the hearing that seemed to give more weight on Tuason’s testimony.
“I consider that handling of the hearing as an offensive foul because he gave more weight on testimony of Mrs. Tuason despite the absence of basis and evidence aside from her own words,” Estrada said in prepared statement.
Estrada also expressed suspicion that Guingona is using the hearing in order for him to improve his popularity and his ranking in the Senatorial race wherein he landed on the 12th position during the 2010 senatorial race.
“I also cannot blame him (Guingona) because he might want to improve ratings in the elections. Maybe from number 12 he wants to be in number 11,” Estrada said.
Guingona maintained that there is no politics involved in the hearing and suspects that he might have angered Estrada because the Blue Ribbon was able to bring out the truth.