Ex-lawyer of Mike Arroyo denies link to Malampaya scam

by Kathlyn dela Cruz, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Feb 07 2014 07:25 PM | Updated as of Feb 08 2014 10:10 AM

Atty. Jess Santos says it could be a case of mistaken identity

Says he does not even know Ruby Tuason

MANILA -- Atty. Jess Santos, a former lawyer of ex-First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo, denied any links to the Malampaya fund scam and claimed he does not even know who Ruby Tuason is.

Santos' name was implicated in the alleged misuse of P900-million Malampaya funds after he was mentioned by Tuason as the one who picked up kickbacks from her house for an "undisclosed principal."

Tuason is one of the accused in the plunder cases related to the pork barrel and Malampaya fund scam. She reaffirmed her 15-page sworn statement before the Office of the Ombudsman on Friday.

In an interview with ANC's "Top Story," Santos said there are many "Atty. Jess Santos" in the country. Thus, it is possible that the Jess Santos Tuason was referring to in her affidavit is not him, he said.

"Unang-unang pumasok sa isip ko eh napakarami namang Atty. Jess Santos. Baka kako hindi naman ako... Dahil kung ang binabanggit ay yang Malampaya fund na yan, eh sa diyaryo ko lang nababasa yan," he said.

"Kung maaari naman siguraduhin naman nila baka hindi ako ito. Napakaraming Atty. Jess Santos. Pero kung ako ang ibig nilang tukuyin, wag naman ganun. Bakit naman ganyan ang ginagawa nila sa akin," the 87-year-old lawyer added.

Speaking to reporters earlier, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said: "Ang sinasabi po ni Mrs. Tuason, kino-confirm niya na nagkaroon ng deliveries ng mga pera sa bahay niya, dun sa kapatid niya, yung namatay na niyang kapatid, at yun ang merong ka-deal. Pero yung paghahatid ng pera na-wiwitness daw niya yun. At may sinabi siyang pangalan na yun ang kumukuha ng pera sa bahay nila. And that can lead us to Jess Santos."

Asked by reporters if the Jess Santos she was talking about was the former lawyer of Arroyo, de Lima said: "You all know who Jess Santos is."

Santos, however, insisted that he does not even know who Tuason is. He said he only encountered a certain Ruby Tuason who sold guns and ammunition 20 years ago.

"Hindi ko alam ang itsura ng babae na ito. Ni hindi ko alam kung saan nakatira itong babae na ito. Kaya nagtataka ako papaano ako nabaanggit diyan," he said.

He lamented why he has seemingly become a target of investigations by the government.

He said he was recently charged with tax evasion. Furthermore, he said he received a subpoena from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) last December 19 in connection to his alleged involvement in an international reinsurance transaction while he was a member of the board of trustees of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).

"Ang pinagtataka ko lamang...bakit laging ako ang nagiging focus ng ganitong mga pagsisiyasat?"

"I am being charged of tax evasion eh. Eto ba namang tao kong ito na pangkarinawang abodado lang ako, I was charged with tax evasion, papaano naman yan?" he said.

Nonetheless, Santos said he is ready to face the Ombudsman to prove that he was not involved in the P900-million Malampaya fund scam.

"I am ready to face any forum. I am even ready to face my God and tell my God and the people that I had nothing to do with this," he said.

Arroyo's wife, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was among those charged with plunder for allegedly pocketing funds obtained as royalties from the natural gas project off the seas of Palawan.

Arroyo's co-accused in the case include Tuason, former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, former Budget Secretary Rolando, and several others.

Whistleblowers said the funds went to fake non-government organizations (NGOs) set up by Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the pork barrel scam, and then diverted to private pockets.

Tuason allegedly pocketed P242.775 million in kickbacks "received through bank withdrawals for a still unidentified principal."

Mrs. Arroyo has denied that she is the unidentified principal of Tuason, whose late husband is a cousin of Mike Arroyo.