MANILA (UPDATE) – Ruby Tuason, a former aide of ex-president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, is seeking full immunity from the plunder charges involving the pork barrel and Malampaya fund scams.
Speaking to reporters, Tuason's lawyer Dennis Manalo said his client is currently under "conditional immunity" which means that she is not included in the plunder case as far as the Department of Justice is concerned.
Manalo said the full immunity from the lawsuit can only be granted by the Office of the Ombdusman.
The decision to give Tuason full immunity will be released after the Ombudsman concludes its investigation and forwards the case to the Sandiganbayan.
"Conditional means she would not backtrack from her commitment to testify and she complies with all the requirements of being a state witness as provided for by the rules of procedure," Manalo said.
"These cases are under the investigation of the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman will come up with a resolution that will indict the personalities involved. Together with that indictment will be a ruling for her application of immunity."
Manalo said he is confident his client will be granted full immunity, considering that she was admitted to the DOJ's Witness Protection Program, even though on a provisional basis.
"To me the presence of the heads of these two delicate agencies in government means a lot. It means they give full value to the process as well as to the statement that has been released today," Manalo said, referring to DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
"As the counsel of Mrs. Ruby Tuason, I have prayed that the Ombudsman will look favorably on her application and grant her full immunity."
NEW NAMES IN SCAM
Tuason arrived in the Philippines on Friday and went straight to the Department of Justice to submit her 15-page sworn statement, which Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said contains "very vital information."
Tuason allegedly served as businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles' conduit of pork barrel kickbacks to Senator Estrada and Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.
Senators Estrada, Enrile, Bong Revilla and several others are facing plunder charges in connection with P10 billion pork barrel scam.
Although he refused to reveal the names of the personalities mentioned by Tuason in her sworn statement, Manalo said the testimonies of the pork scam whistleblowers and Tuason "corroborate each other on its material points. It may not necessarily dovetail on every single point of fact but only on the substantial portions of the evidence."
"Insofar as the essence of existing evidence on record, the DOJ has already taken a position that everything goes hand in hand."
Manalo also said that aside from those mentioned in previous testimonies, Tuason revealed the names of new personalities with whom she had made transactions with.
"Yes, there will be other names," he said.
Former JLN Corporation finance clerk Marina Sula earlier told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that she brought a bag of money to Tuason's house in 2011.
An Anti-Money Laundering Council investigation also revealed that P20 million in credit memo transactions was entered to Tuason's Union Bank of the Philippines account in 2008. This was supposedly rebates from the pork barrel funds funneled by Senator Enrile to Napoles' foundations.
Aside from the pork scam case, Tuason has also been linked to the Malampaya fund scam.
She was charged with plunder along with former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, former Budget Secretary Rolando, and several others for allegedly pocketing the funds obtained as royalties from the natural gas project off the seas of Palawan.
The complaint said Tuason pocketed P242.775 million in kickbacks "received through bank withdrawals for a still unidentified principal."
Manalo said his client intends to return the kickback money she made from the transactions.
"Isosoli ang halagan na nakuha sa mga transaksyon. That matter will be subject to a separate discussion between Mrs. Tuason and DOJ. There will be no bargaining. It will simply be an arrangement on how the process will take place," he said.