Palace defends DOJ move to take in Ruby

by Aurea Calica and Dino Balabo, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 09 2014 11:38 AM | Updated as of Feb 09 2014 07:38 PM

MANILA - Malacañang yesterday defended the Department of Justice (DOJ) for its decision to accept Ruby Tuason as a potential state witness in the pork barrel scam.

Officials took note that Tuason herself benefited from the anomalous transactions.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Tuason’s status as a state witness was provisional and she would have to undergo rigid procedures and meet certain requirements to be formally accepted as a state witness.

“We have laws and standards to observe. If they pass the standard, they can avail themselves of the Witness Protection Program. This does not apply only to Ruby Tuason. 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 on the matter,” Lacierda said.

Even in the United States, Lacierda said the law would allow whistle-blowers to “help facilitate and expedite the revelation and uncovering of (the) truth” in a judicial proceeding.

For now, the Office of the Ombudsman would evaluate Tuason’s testimony and they would just have to wait for the decision, he said.

Lacierda said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had disclosed that Tuason was willing to return the money that she personally received while dealing with alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

While there are conditions for Tuason’s acceptance as a state witness, Lacierda expressed belief her testimony “is very significant” for the case to move toward possible resolution.

“At least it lifted the veil of mystery as to some of the transactions. Now, we have someone apart from the whistle-blowers...(like) Benhur Luy, who testified. Now, we have someone who witnessed the giving of the funds to certain legislators. So, at least we will see now where the case will lead and it strengthens the case of the DOJ and now it is up to the Ombudsman to weigh the evidence and file a case before the Sandiganbayan,” he said.

Lacierda said this case would not give an impression that one could get away from a serious crime.

Tuason, who served as social secretary of former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and his senator-son, Jinggoy, was charged before the Ombudsman for alleged involvement in the multibillion-peso scam.

“I’m not personally aware how much did she profit from the whole enterprise but, the fact is, her testimony is being evaluated,” Lacierda said.

He also assured the public that all pork barrel-related cases, including those that implicated allies of the administration, would be pursued by the inter-agency body composed of the DOJ, the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit.

Lacierda also dismissed criticisms that the pork barrel scam was only being used to target political opponents of the administration like the Estradas, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce-Enrile and Sen. Bong Revilla.

He said the pieces of evidence would speak for themselves and lead the investigators to what charges would be filed.

“In the case of the three legislators, we already have Benhur Luy who knew the situation and we were able to shed light immediately. Now that Ms. Tuason has come back to share her testimony, there is really evidence there,” Lacierda said.

“Insofar as the others, the evidence will still have to be investigated. So we are not departing from any instruction from the President: we go where the evidence leads us,” he added.

Lacierda said the only consideration was how fast they could obtain the evidence in relation to a particular investigation.

“In the case of the three legislators, the flow of evidence is a bit fast,” he said.