Another witness vs senators to surface

By Aie Balagtas See, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 12 2014 03:46 AM | Updated as of Feb 12 2014 11:46 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Another staff member of a senator implicated in the pork barrel scam controversy may follow the steps of Ruby Tuason.

This was revealed by lawyer Levito Baligod who said on Monday that someone “similarly situated” as Tuason may also surface to testify and add to the growing list of witnesses implicating several lawmakers in the pork barrel scam.

Baligod, counsel of principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy, declined to elaborate, saying he was not yet “100 percent sure.”

He also declined to say if the probable witness would be coming from abroad.

A source, however, revealed yesterday that Pauline Labayen, the former appointments staff of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, would surface and testify.

The source was not aware how Labayen was supposedly sending the feelers, but said the information was relayed by a lawyer involved in the case.

Labayen, like Tuason, used to work for Estrada. She resigned last year after she was included among those charged with plunder.

Luy had said he dealt with Labayen through text messages.

Luy also revealed during a Senate hearing that the driver of alleged pork barrel scam operator Janet Lim-Napoles personally delivered kickbacks to Labayen’s house in the upscale Dasmariñas Village in Makati.

Yesterday Luy said he was praying for Labayen to come out. He said he was hoping that other staff of the senators implicated in the scam would also have the courage to come out like Tuason did.

“I am praying that Ruby, Pauline Labayen and Richard Cambe would come out and testify,” Luy said.

Cambe was a former aide of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., one of the three lawmakers facing charges of plunder along with Estrada and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.

Cambe, Labayen and Tuason were also charged with plunder along with their principals.

The three went on leave and reportedly fled the country after they were implicated in the scam.

Tuason, social secretary of former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, tagged Estrada and Enrile as among the principal players in the pork barrel scam.

Tuason surfaced last Friday before the DOJ and issued a sworn statement corroborating the testimony of Luy.

The Senate has summoned Tuason to appear on Thursday and reveal everything she knows about the scam.

A socialite and an actor

In her affidavit, Tuason has implicated a friend and a socialite in one of the alleged pay-offs of kickbacks from pork barrel funds of Estrada in 2004.

Tuason identified Justa Tantoco as the resident of 1564 Mahogany Street, Dasmariñas Village, Makati City, which was one of the places where the supposed payoffs took place.

Like Tuason, Tantoco reportedly used to be part of the MARE foundation which is led by former senator Loi Estrada, mother of Jinggoy.

In her an affidavit submitted to the justice department, Tuason also pointed to actor Matt Ranillo as the person who delivered P11.970 million to the same address in Dasmariñas Village.

The amount was culled from the statements and accounting records of Luy.

Tuason recalled how she started dealing with Napoles involving pork barrel allocations of senators.

“My involvement in the transactions of Janet Napoles with the PDAF started when I agreed to introduce her to Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, the latter through his chief-of-staff, Attorney Jessica ‘Gigi’ Reyes,” she said.

Tuason admitted she was lured to the scam after Napoles promised and on several occasions, gave a referral fee or commission for every deal that she was able to close with Estrada or Enrile.

It was sometime in 2004 when she told Estrada that Napoles wanted to meet him regarding his pork barrel budget. Estrada first declined but later agreed, apparently due to Tuason’s prodding.

It was on Napoles’ directives that Tuason told Estrada about the 40 percent (less five percent “withholding tax” that she would keep) for every transaction.

Napoles even offered to advance the partial payment of the kickback once the lawmaker’s written request was submitted to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and another payment upon release of the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) and the full balance upon the release of the Notice of Cash Allotment (NCA).

Tuason revealed she informed Estrada about Napoles’ offer on Sept. 7, 2004.

At the same time, Estrada agreed to course P37.5-million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) through Napoles.

As commission, Tuason said she received an initial amount of P1.5 million and then P4.2 million for the second tranche, or a total of P 5.7 million in behalf of Estrada.

“I handed over all these money personally to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada but for reasons known only to Senator Jinggoy Estrada, that transaction was cancelled and so Sen. Jinggoy Estrada caused the return of the P 5.7 million in cash and then I turned it over to Janet Napoles,” Tuason said in her affidavit.

Coached

Sought for comment, Estrada said he could not recall the particular incident alleged by Tuason.

“She has been coached obviously so that they can bolster the false accusations they hurl against us,” Estrada said in Filipino.

When the interrogator asked if she had knowledge whether the transaction still pushed through, Tuason cited the affidavit of Luy where he listed the transaction as having been “consummated through a certain Matt Ranillo.”

Tuason also mentioned in her affidavit other transactions between Estrada and Napoles, which payoffs supposedly happened in the senator’s residence in San Juan or at his Senate office.

Tuason claimed she acted as Estrada’s courier until 2008 when she introduced Napoles to the senator during the wake of actor Rudy Fernandez.

“Few days later, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada appeared to have directly dealt with Janet Lim-Napoles because money intended for delivery to him were since then received by his secretary Ms. Pauline Labayen and no longer by me,” Tuason said.

Estrada downplayed Tuason’s claims, saying they were concocted by government operators to pin him down on plunder charges, along with Enrile and Revilla.

More names

Lawyers of the whistle-blowers in the scam revealed more senators are involved in the controversy.

“These are their code names. Dahon is Senator Loren Legarda, Bigote is Senator Tito Sotto, while Bongets is Senator Bongbong Marcos,” according to Lourdes Benipayo.

Benipayo and her partner lawyer Stephen Cascolan relayed the information to The STAR as revealed to them by their clients Baby Sula and Arlene Baltazar. The two are not allowed to talk to the media under the rules of the Witness Protection Program.

According to the lawyers, Baltazar, a former bookkeeper of Napoles, kept a computer-scanned transaction titled “2012 Projects Implemented Per Foundation.”

The one-page document was given to her by Evelyn de Leon, a colleague in the Napoles-owned JLN Corporation.

The document contained 46 entries detailing how much of the senators’ Malacañang-allocated Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds were channeled to Napoles’ fake non-government organizations (NGOs). The document also stated the dates and which local government unit the money went.

The document showed Dahon supposedly had seven entry dates, totaling P45 million from July to December 2012.

Bigote had four entries – one of them was without a date – totaling P35 million.

Bongets, meanwhile, gave P100 million in four different entries, all of which were without dates.

The three other senators who gave their 2012 DAP funds were those previously mentioned by the media: Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla.

Like their colleagues, the entries for these three senators were also in nicknames coined by the whistle-blowers.

According to the lawyers, Enrile is Tanda, Revilla is Pogi, while Estrada is Sexy.

Of the three, Sexy had the most number of entries. Based on Baltazar’s document, he had 15 different entries and channeled about P142 million to Napoles‘ NGOs. Two of these entries were without dates.

Sexy was followed by Pogi, who supposedly gave P100 million based on three different entries that were without dates.

Tanda, meanwhile, reportedly channeled P53 million in six different entry dates.

The NGOs which received their DAP funds were Kaupdanan, GAMF, POPDFI, SDPFFI, CARED, AEPFFI and APMFI.

The releasing agencies were the Departments of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform.

Overpriced

According to the whistle-blowers, the money were all intended for agriculture projects. The lawyers said Baltazar and Sula were not sure if the projects were fully implemented.

“That was supposed to be implemented in 2012. But they are not sure if it was fully implemented because the farm inputs were overpriced. The money was short for the intended beneficiaries,” Baltazar said in Filipino as relayed by Cascolan.

What is sure, however, was that kickbacks were given from Napoles’ company to the senators’ offices.

“All of those transactions have kickbacks,” said Sula to Benipayo.

The whistle-blowers were not sure how and when the senators’ offices received the money, or if the money just went to the pockets of their chiefs of staff.

As to Legarda and Marcos, Napoles is directly talking to their “agent” identified as a certain Maya Santos, Baltazar said.

Baltazar added that this 2012 DAP document was the only record which escaped shredding in January 2013, after Napoles ordered all their transaction records destroyed. – Christina Mendez, Marvin Sy, Cecille Suerte Felipe