Many other Ruby Tuasons are willing to testify against lawmakers accused of pocketing kickbacks from their pork barrel funds, President Benigno Aquino 3rd said on Wednesday.
The President was referring to the socialite who has surfaced with what Justice Secretary Leila de Lima described as “slam dunk” evidence to indict Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada in the multibillion-peso scheme.
Aquino said there was credibility in Tuason’s testimony before the Senate blue ribbon committee on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
“She is not the only witness here. There are the whistleblowers and there are others who will come [out],” the President said.
But Aquino did not say if the Department of Justice (DOJ) is negotiating with other likely witnesses, just as it did with Tuason, who was in the United States when government lawyers arranged her admission into the Witness Protection Program.
The President said the government remains focused on weighing the evidence against those accused of plundering public funds.
“All our actions and objectives are after evidence that we could use in the trial [against those involved],” he said.
At the last hearing of the panel chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, Tuason said she delivered pork barrel commissions four times to Senator Estrada, the son of her former boss, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.
The businesswoman claimed that 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.”
Besides Estrada, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. were also reported to have received huge kickbacks from projects funded by their pork barrel as alleged by Benhur Luy, the first whistleblower in the scam allegedly perpetrated by Janet Lim-Napoles.
Aquino admitted he failed to follow the hearing closely because he was in several meetings that day, but said what was important was that Tuason’s testimony could stand up in court.
“I think that what is important is that she was able to narrate how she got the money and to whom it was delivered and who got it,” he stressed.
“It now depends on the skills of the prosecutors to elicit information from her and to know what she can say [in court],” Aquino added.
On Napoles’s request to be transferred to a hospital, the President said she should first have a thorough medical check-up.
“It is our obligation to ensure that even inmates are healthy. So, we will check if she really has any medical reason. Then the court would say where she could be taken,” he said. He was reacting to reports that a cyst in Napoles’ reproductive organ should qualify her for hospital detention so that physicians can monitor her condition.
Some sectors insist Napoles should be transferred to an ordinary jail from Fort Santo Domingo in Santa Rosa, Laguna, where the government is spending for her detention.
The President said the transfer can be done because the threats against Napoles’ life appear to have dissipated.
“Many are asking why she should be separated now that it seems that the threats to her safety are gone because she does not point to any. It seems there’s no cause for alarm,” Aquino added.