Malacañang on Sunday called on other people who may have knowledge of the multibillion-peso mess involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to testify.
“If other people want to come forward and provide information that may help tie the loose ends of the case, the DOJ is ready to evaluate what they will provide,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said, referring to the Department of Justice.
He added that the government will go “wherever the evidence will lead to.”
“We promise the people, we’ll stand by the evidence, wherever it may take us. It will help put closure to this chapter of repression of our countrymen,” Coloma said on state-run radio.
He said the DOJ will process all information received and determine if the informant can be accepted into the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
President Benigno Aquino 3rd earlier welcomed the return of Ruby Tuason to the country, saying what she knows about the pork barrel scam will boost the case now pending at the Office of the Ombudsman.
The President expressed belief that Tuason’s testimony could help in “closing the
chapter” on the scandal over the misuse of public funds.
Tuason, the former social secretary of former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, arrived from the United States on Friday. She was among those charged with plunder for allegedly receiving kickbacks in behalf of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada.
Tuason’s camp believes that she can qualify as a state witness.
Palace Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said there are requirements Tuason must meet to be accepted to the WPP.
“We have laws and standards to observe,” he said. “For any criminal offense where a person who participated in the crime [and]whose participation is not the most guilty, the law allows them to testify and shed truth to the matter.”
For now, Lacierda said the Office of the Ombudsman is evaluating Tuason’s testimony.
Stephen Cascolan, lawyer of the other witnesses in the plunder case, questioned Tuason’s desire to turn state witness, saying her testimony may be immaterial to the DOJ because a complaint has already been filed.
“We have our doubts, the same way people doubted our clients when they decided to cooperate and give their testimony,” Cascolan, who represents witnesses Marina Sula, Arlene Baltazar, and Monette Briones, said.
He noted that they don’t know what made Tuason decide to testify against Senator Estrada.
“In any litigation, there are a number of ways to prepare for trial. What if she is part of the defense strategy?” the lawyer noted.
Tuason on her affidavit submitted to the Ombudsman admitted her participation in the multi-billion-peso pork scam as she claimed to have been the “kickback” delivery girl of Janet Lim-Napoles to Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.
She claimed that there are times when she would deliver the cash at the Senate and will be received by Estrada himself. Enrile’s cut was received by his former chief of staff, Jessica “Gigi” Reyes.
The money, Tuason said, is the commission of the senators from the pork barrel transactions using non-governmental organizations (NGO) of Napoles.
Estrada had denied the allegations and said someone may be pressuring Tuason to testify against them.
“As far as I am concerned, in my own opinion I don’t think she is a credible witness to be placed under the Witness Protection Program. She was just corroborating what the other whistleblowers said that she was our agent, she was collecting money from Napoles and giving it to us. I have never ever authorized her to represent me in any transactions with regard to my PDAF allocation” Estrada said.
Cascolan lamented that Suna, Briones and Baltazar remain respondents even if their statements were used by the DOJ in filing graft and corruption cases against several lawmakers and individuals in connection with the pork barrel scam. He said his clients are in a difficult situation because while they have provided the DOJ the information it needs to build a case against those involved in the scam, they also have to answer to the charges filed against them based on their own statements.