IS Senator Jinggoy Estrada’s goose cooked? Ruby Tuason, who told the televised Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing that she had personally handed over about P200 million in pork barrel kickbacks to Senator Jinggoy Estrada in the senator’s office and in other places, has been granted immunity by the Ombudsman.
Are the geese of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla also cooked?
Based on the affidavits and spoken testimonies of the original batch of whistleblowers (former assistants of alleged PDAF scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles) and other witnesses, including Ms. Ruby Tuason, the Ombudsman has approved the filing of plunder charges against Enrile, Estrada and Revilla and a number of others.
The three senators, who are leaders of the band of parties opposed to President Aquino’s Liberal Party coalition, have filed a motion for reconsideration, aimed to stop the Ombudsman from filing the plunder charges against them.
Ms. Ruby Tuason’s becoming a state witness means the motion for reconsideration of Senator Estrada will not be granted by the Ombudsman.
Asked by The Manila Times, Presidential spokesman Secretary Herminio Coloma confirmed that Ms. Tuason has been made a state witness and added, also in response to our reporters’ texted questions, “We hope Ms. Tuason can reveal the whole truth, thus aiding in the people’s quest for justice.”
The Palace has to give this assurance because the original whistleblowers, Ms. Tuason and other witnesses have so far been heard only testifying about the participation of opposition figures in the pork-barrel scam.
The public clamor is for the Ombudsman to indict everyone who participated in the scam. That is the reason we in The Times, and virtually millions of people who have commented in Facebook, Twitter and other social media, insist that Secretary Leila de Lima and the National Bureau of Investigation should reveal the names of those they have found to have participated in the scam. In addition to those named by Mrs. Napoles.
The Office of the Ombudsman announced also on Friday that Ms. Tuason had handed over a check for P40 million which represents the amount she said she got for helping facilitate the transactions allegedly organized by Mrs. Janet Lim Napoles.
Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan told reporters that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales granted Ms. Tuason the state witness status and immunity from criminal prosecution in return for her testimony on the illegal PDAF transactions and her presentation of documents in her possession containing transaction details.
Mr. Rafanan said the immunity granted to Tuason would be revoked once the Ombudsman determines that she is withholding information and documents.
In addition, she would also be put back among the persons being charged for perpetrating the scam. And she could then also be prosecuted for perjury and giving false testimony.
How does this development affect the moves of Mrs. Napoles, who herself wishes to be made a state witness or failing that, to be treated more leniently?
Will the Office of the Ombudsman look into the scandal of Secretary de Lima claiming that Mrs. Napoles’ affidavit is until now not finished? The media, including The Manila Times, have published articles stating that Mrs. Napoles has named more than 100 lawmakers who participated in the PDAF scam. And that Sec. de Lima and the NBI are under pressure from the Palace and powerful allies of President Aquino to sanitize the Napoles affidavit so that the names of Liberal Party people and allies of the President are cleared.
Mr. Rafanan said the Ombudsman won’t investigate any draft affidavit of Janet Napoles. He acknowledged that the Ombudsman has the power to investigate the matter. But he said the Ombudsman is now busy attending to the motions of Senator Enrile, Estrada and Revilla. He explained that it is up to the DOJ or the NBI, as the formal complainants, to ask the Ombudsman to investigate the contents of the Napoles affidavit.
But why should the DOJ Secretary ask the Ombudman to investigate her own delay?