Ruby Tuason on Monday dared Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada to attend the Senate hearing on the pork barrel scam so the public will know who among them is lying.
Estrada and Enrile both said they will not attend the hearing because it serves no useful purpose.
“We challenge the two senators to attend the hearing so they could ask questions to Mrs. Tuason. They could confront them if she is telling the truth. It is about time for the public to judge who among them are telling the truth,” Levito Baligod told The Manila Times.
Tuason went to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headquarters in Manila to add more details to her previous testimony.
There she met Benhur Luy, another state witness and the two compared notes to prepare for Thursday’s hearing, Baligod said.
“Some pictures were shown to them and they were asked by NBI agents if they know the people in the pictures,” he said.
Investigators asked Tuason and Luy some questions in preparation for the Senate hearing.
“For example, why is it that the amount of rebates are different. Mrs. Tuason said she had bigger rebates because she went directly to Mrs. Janet Napoles at the Pacific Tower,” Baligod said.
Tuason arrived in Manila from San Francisco, California last week with affidavits in which she alleged to have delivered millions of pesos in kickbacks to Enrile and Estrada.
She said she introduced the two senators to Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
Tuason later submitted her affidavit to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Enrile and Estrada, together with Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., are respondents in the plunder case pending before the Ombudsman.
Tuason said she had dealings only with Enrile and Estrada.
Tuason refused to answer questions from reporters after she emerged from the NBI Special Task Force office, proceeding straight to her vehicle escorted by NBI agents.
Tuason has been provisionally entered in the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Justice. The Ombudsman will decide if she is qualified as state witness.
But a face-off between Tuason and Enrile at Thursday’s Senate hearing may not materialize.
Enrile told reporters on Monday he would rather face Tuason “in the court room.”
Enrile described Tuason as a “casual acquaintance” he met her when Joseph Estrada was president.
Tuason was Estrada’s social secretary.
“I knew her as Ruby Chan, I was greeting her. Then later on I found out that she was acting as a broker or buyer of property for someone,” he said.
Enrile refused to comment on Tuason’s allegations, saying he has not read the affidavit she submitted to the Ombudsman.
“I will not rely on the statement of the people. I want to see the whole text of the affidavit and what was said in the context of the affidavit. We will make a formal answer, a formal statement about it,” he said.
Tuason said she handed Enrile’s cut in the pork barrel scam to his chief of staff, Jessica “Gigi” Reyes.
Reyes would pick up the money either at her home or at restaurants. There was a time when Enrile briefly joined their meeting, Tuason said.
Enrile admitted meeting with Tuason in a restaurant, but not to collect his supposed cut.
“The only time that I met her [Tuason] is in Mamou. A very crowded restaurant and it was not to discuss the PDAF or to receive a bribe, but I was discussing with her a prospective property transaction. That was about it. In fact, I was the one who arranged that lunch,” Enrile said.
He said he brought Reyes to the meeting because he always wanted somebody to be present during discussion with anybody because of his hearing problem.
“It’s better that somebody was there to record the details of what was discussed. But that was a long time ago,” Enrile said.
Enrile said he sees no reason for Reyes to do what Tuason did and testify against him.
“I have faith in her honesty and integrity because she has been working for me for almost 25 years and there has never been any occasion that she violated that degree of rectitude expected from a public servant,” he said
In a related development Estrada on Monday asked the Senate sergeant-at-arms to release all closed-circuit television (CCTV) tapes showing Tuason’s visits to the Senate.
Tuason said Estrada would instruct her to park in the Senate basement, which is reserved only for senators to avoid a security check.
Senate President Franklin Drilon granted Estrada’s request, but asked him to be patient since the search could take some time.
To simplify the search, Estrada asked the Blue Ribbon Committee if it could ask Tuason, who is scheduled to appear before the panel on February 14, if to provide the dates of her supposed visits at the Senate.
Opposition congressmen dared Tuason to spare no one in revealing what she knows about the PDAF mess.
Jonathan de la Cruz of Abakada and Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of Leyte were reacting to Tuason’s disclosure that she used to organize parties for political bigwigs.
“If she really wants to help, she should also tell who are in her parties. Who are these high profile political leaders?” de la Cruz said in a press conference.
“Tuason is yet to back up her statements so [Justice] Secretary Leila de Lima should stop claiming that these revelations slamdunk evidence until it is proven in court. Let us avoid trial by publicity,” Romualdez said.
Elpidio Barzaga of Dasmariñas backed the call of Malacañang for those who have information about the PDAF scam to testify.
“The more confessions we have in the pork barrel scam, the more it would be easy on the part of the government to secure the conviction of those who are responsible. Once there is conviction, it would have a chilling effect on all government officials giving hope that good governance is still possible to our country,” Barzaga said in closing.
WITH REPORTS FROM LLANESCA T. PANTI AND JHOANNA BALLARAN