RUBY Tuason, seen by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee as the missing link that directly connects Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada to Janet Lim-Napoles, disclosed on Thursday 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.”
Tuason narrated how she personally delivered Estrada’s “cuts” from the use of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel when she appeared before the Senate for the first time yesterday.
According to her, she first met Napoles in 2004 when her husband, Carlos Tuason, introduced her to the businesswoman who at that time was interested in buying their house in Bel-Air. Napoles did not buy the house but the two became friends.
Tuason told senators that the first transaction made between Napoles and Estrada was in 2004, involving a project amounting to P37.5 million.
She said Napoles gave Estrada an advance commission of P5.7 million which she delivered to the senator’s residence in San Juan. However, Estrada refused to accept the money and ordered it returned to Napoles.
She said she later found out that the project was given to Matt Ranillo. This was confirmed by Benhur Luy, who was also present during the proceedings. Luy said it was he who delivered Estrada’s commission of P11.9 million for that particular project. He added that he handed the money to Pauline Labayen, Estrada’s former secretary, at the residence of Justa Tantoco, the chief of staff of then Sen. Loi Estrada, mother of Jinggoy.
Labayen left the country after being implicated in the pork scam last year.
Tuason said the first successful transaction she had with Estrada was in December 2007, where the senator was able to get a P25 million cut from a project of the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) that was funded by his pork barrel.
In 2008, Tuason said she made two cash deliveries in Estrada’s office at the Senate. It was the senator who personally received the money in both occasions.
Tuason, however, admitted that she could not remember the exact dates and the amount of cash she gave to Estrada in those two occasions.
“I delivered [money]here in the Senate twice, there was a time when I needed to use a trolley because the bag is big,” she told the senators.
She said somebody from Estrada’s office escorted her so that her vehicle would be allowed to enter the basement parking lot which was designated only for senators.
Estrada also sent his staff to fetch her so that her bag would not undergo security check.
“He has a sala in his office. It’s just put on the floor next to his desk,” Tuason said.
At one time, she said Estrada called her late at night and asked her to bring P1 million to a comedy bar along Wilson Street in San Juan.
Tuason also admitted that she also delivered pork commissions for Enrile but she did not personally deal with him. She said it was Enrile’s chief-of-staff, Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, who always received the money. The transactions were made either in a restaurant or in her residence.
She said she and Reyes were friends, which was why Napoles was able to get projects funded by Enrile’s PDAF.
But eventually, Tuason was taken out of the picture because Napoles was able to directly transact with Estrada and Enrile through Labayen and Reyes respectively.
Tuason said she never got to talk with Enrile when she was with Reyes, although Enrile would sit down with them sometimes.
Although she believes that Enrile could have had direct knowledge of their PDAF transactions, Tuason admitted that she has no evidence to prove it.
“She [Reyes] has an authority to handle PDAF. He [Enrile] has full trust on Atty. Gigi,” Tuason added.
Enrile earlier said that he never authorized Reyes or any of his staff to discuss pork barrel transactions with Tuason. He also denied receiving commissions from his pork projects.
But to some members of the Blue Ribbon committee, Tuason’s testimony is enough to convict Estrada and Enrile.
Members of the panel believe Tuason is a perfect witness and that she is eligible for the Witness Protection Program.
Sen. Miriam Santiago is convinced that Tuason’s testimony is sufficient to pin down the two senators beyond reasonable doubt.
“Her situation shows that she has nothing to gain by turning state witness except for being free from criminal liabilities,” Santiago told reporters.
She added that it doesn’t matter if Tuason failed to provide the amount of money she delivered to Estrada and Enrile, explaining that Tuason was just a “middlewoman” and it was not in her interest to record everything.
Santiago said with Tuason as witness, she sees no need to convince Napoles to testify against Enrile.
Senate majority leader Alan Peter Cayetano is also convinced that Tuason is a reliable and knowledgeable witness who could provide the needed information to strengthen the case.
“I can say that the testimony is damning because it came from an eyewitness,” Cayetano said.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, however, said Tuason’s testimony was not enough because she could not provide details such as the dates of the deliveries or the amount of cash that changed hands.
Trillanes said Tuason should know such details to be deemed an effective witness.