Call it a slam dunk (according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima) or call it a bull’s eye (in the view of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago), the testimony of socialite Ruby Tuason before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee yesterday was a huge nail on the political coffins of Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile. More for the former than the latter, to be sure, since the lawmaker known as JPE is widely expected to retire once his term ends.
And since he is already pushing 90, there is little more that Enrile can aim for but to clear his name vis-à-vis the Priority Development Assistance Fund (AKA pork barrel) scandal.
For the relatively young Estrada, however, the testimony of the witness who had been his father’s social secretary when he was president means he can no longer realistically aspire to run for president or vice president somewhere down the road, as had been widely expected before the pork barrel scam irreparably ruined his reputation.
What makes Tuason so credible is her offer to return her share of the kickbacks or commissions that alleged mastermind Janet Lim Napoles had given Estrada and Enrile. In her case, Tuason said she received a five percent gratuity on the millions of pesos that she delivered to Estrada as well as Enrile’s former chief of staff, Gigi Reyes.
There will be those who will dismiss Tuason’s willingness to turn state witness as a good deed done for the wrong reasons. Some say that she merely wants to avoid ending up in prison. Others claim she is a Trojan horse who will actually bolster the defense during the trial proper, when she will suddenly contradict herself again and again.
In fact, her detailed testimony proved that she was, indeed, part of the scam, but only as a bagman.
Tuason admits that she was pulled into the world of easy money tantamount to plunder, and that her conscience eventually bothered her. She cited love of family, specifically her grandchildren, as the reason she decided to turn state witness against the scammers.
Why should this surprise anyone?
Countless Filipinos would have done the same out of love for God, country and family.
In turning state witness, she must have been aware that she had placed herself in harm’s way. Certainly, it could not have been an easy decision to make.
We will not go so far as to call Ruby Tuason a heroine. Not yet. But we cannot discount the possibility that she experienced her own road to Damascus-style conversion. She has also said that she made her decision after reading and hearing of the suffering of the Filipino people following Super Typhoon Yolanda.
She may have realized that there are more important things in life than to amass wealth, especially if it comes at the expense of the people.
She may have dealt with Napoles, who may have been awash in cash, but never possessed what Tuason had—class.
By no stretch of the imagination could Napoles be deemed a socialite like Tuason. The suspected mastermind needed connections to the highest levels, and Tuason certainly fit the bill.
To add to the sports analogy of De Lima and Santiago, what Tuason delivered on the Senate floor on Thursday was a haymaker, a crippling blow. Hopefully, her testimony—in aid of legislation—serves as a reminder to all that there is no such thing as a perfect crime, or scam.