The former head of the Technology Resource Center (TRC) said he was pressured by Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada into releasing funds from their pork barrel to non-government agencies controlled by Janet Lim-Napoles.
Dennis Cunanan, who was director general of the Technology Resource Center (TRC) from 2004 to 2010, implicated the two senators in the affidavit he submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday.
Cunanan submitted his sworn statement as a first step toward admission to the government’s Witness Program.
He was the second witness to be provisionally admitted, after socialite Ruby Tuason, to bolster the state’s case involving the massive pork barrel scheme.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Friday Cunanan also implicated Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, former representative Ruffy Biazon of Muntinlupa and former representative of CIBAC party-list and now Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Joel Villanueva.
Revilla denied Cunanan’s allegations and suspects Malacañang is behind Cunanan’s decision to testify.
Estrada said he never talked to Cunanan and that he doesn’t know him.
De Lima said Cunanan’s testimony is vital because he headed one of the implementing agencies that had dealings with Napoles’ NGOs.
Cunanan’s statement “refutes the claims of the three senators in their counter-affidavits that they had no hand in choosing the NGOs that will carry out the projects,” de Lima said, referring to Revilla, Estrada and Enrile.
The defense of the three senators has been “flatly debunked or denied by Mr. Cunanan in his sworn statement,” de Lima said, adding that what Cunanan said is supported by documents previously gathered by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Among the documents are letter of endorsements from the senators, endorsements of NGOs, and project summaries and proposals, de Lima said.
In his affidavit, Cunanan said Revilla and Estrada pressured him over the telephone to release the funds to the NGOs controlled by Napoles.
“Both Senators Revilla and Estrada insisted that the TRC should honor their choice of the NGO, which they selected to implement the projects, since the projects were funded from their PDAF. They both asked me to ensure that the TRC would immediately act on and approve their respective projects,” he said.
“I was certain I was talking to the said Senators because I recognized their respective voices, which I am familiar with since they were both actors and public personalities whose voices I have frequently heard and I am very familiar with,” Cunanan stressed.
In Enrile’s case, it was Gigi Reyes, the senator’s chief of staff, who would give the signal for the release.
“I also remember a time when the staff at the TRC requested me to verify and/or confirm with the Office of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile the authority of his supposed authorized signatories, Atty. Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes and Atty. Jose Antonio Evangelista, as well as the authenticity of their signatures in the documents submitted in support of his request to release part of his PDAF [Priority Development Assistance Fund] funds to an NGO, which Sen. Enrile has chosen,” Cunanan said.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago wants Cunanan to reveal what he knows before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.
Santiago filed a resolution Friday asking the blue ribbon panel to summon Cunanan.
She said that the more witnesses who come forward, the stronger the case for plunder filed by the DOJ before the Ombudsman becomes.
Santiago said Levito Baligod, the lawyer for several pork barrel whistleblowers, believes Cunanan’s evidence is weightier than that of other whistleblowers Simonette Briones, Marina Sula and Arlene Baltazar.
Baligod had said Cunanan could directly link Revilla to the scam.
Baligod said there were times when Revilla would personally talk to Cunanan to confirm pork barrel-funded transactions.
The blue ribbon last held a hearing on the pork barrel controversy on February 13, which Tuason attended.
At the last hearing, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th requested the panel to summon actor Mat Ranillo 3rd, Justa Tantoco, former senator Loi Estrada’s chief-of-staff, Energy Regulatory Commission chairperson Zenaida Ducut and Jess Santos, the lawyer of former first gentleman Mike Arroyo.
Ranillo and Tantoco are being invited in connection with the PDAF controversy, and Ducut and Santos for the Malampaya fund mess.
“We’re still verifying who is in the country, we’re asking the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] to help us, who is outside the country, so we’re still waiting for that information that is why I cannot give you any info yet,” said blue ribbon chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona 3rd.
Malacañang on Friday denied that it was behind the decision of Cunanan to turn state witness.
“The allegation has no basis,” Presidential Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said, reacting to Revilla’s allegation that President Benigno Aquino 3rd has asked Cunanan to testify against him.
On Wednesday, President Aquino said more witnesses were willing to testify against lawmakers accused of pocketing kickbacks from pork barrel releases.
With Catherine S. Valente