Estrada calls TG Guingona's post-hearing comments 'offensive foul'
MANILA - Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Thursday confirmed that he had his security aides escort socialite Ruby Tuason to his office in the Senate but that he never received kickbacks from her.
Instead of money, he said Tuason brought "merienda" including trays of sandwiches or pansit.
"What she is bringing here in my office tray tray na sandwich. I agree with her and I admit na yung security ko at yung driver ang pinasusundo ko sa kanya para kunin yung kanyang mga dinadalang merienda sa amin dito," he said in an ANC interview.
He added: "No money nor kickbacks was every delivered to me by Mrs. Tuason in my residence or in my Senate office or in any other venue or at any other time."
Estrada said Tuason was never a member of his staff and had never been authorized to deal with his staff.
The only time that he received money from Tuason, he said, was when the socialite gave him funds for his senatorial campaign in the 2010 election. He, however, said the contributions were declared.
Tuason, a former social secretary of Jinggoy's father and former President Joseph Estrada, earlier said she personally delivered millions of pesos in kickbacks to the senator's office twice.
She said staff members of Estrada, later identified as Alfredo delos Reyes and Ferdinand Tanalion, would escort her through security so that her bags containing the money would not be checked.
Estrada and Tuason are among 38 individuals facing charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged roles in the pork barrel scam.
The Commission on Audit said more than P2 billion in pork barrel funds were coursed to NGOs set up by Janet Lim Napoles from 2007 to 2009.
In the interview, Estrada said he will not stop his staff from appearing in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation on the scam.
"I will not prevent them from attending the hearing if in case the Senate blue ribbon committee decides to to subpoena. No problem at all," he said.
However, he also called on the Senate leadership to check the CCTV footage on the dates when Mrs. Tuason allegedly brought the kickbacks.
Estrada denied that he approved a P37.5 million project from his own Priority Development Assistance Fund in September 2004. Mrs. Tuason earlier claimed that she delivered P5 million in kickbacks to Estrada from that project.
He said that as a new senator, he had just assumed office in June 30, 2004 and that his first special allotment release order came out in December 2004.
"How could they get a SARO in September when my SARO came out in December? No way for them to accuse me that I received and returned immediately the sum of money that she allegedly gave me," he said.
He also noted that Mrs. Tuason's testimony seemed to crumble especially since she kept referring to whistle-blower Benhur Luy and her own affidavit during Thursday's hearing.
The senator said Tuason had "no recollection of events on her own."
"Wala siyang maibigay na petsa or amount kung magkano allegedly yung dine-deliver niya sa Senate office or sa bahay. She was not specific enough to mention how much money she gave me, where or when she gave me."
"Why doesn't she answer questions from her own memory and not rely on her own statements? Mrs. Tuason is merely being fed all this information," he said.
A plea for money
The senator again reiterated his earlier claim that Tuason had asked him for money while she was in the US. He denied that Tuason had merely asked for help.
"Humihingi siya ng pera sa akin. Hindi yung: 'Ano ba yung maitutulong mo sa akin?' The exact phrase was 'Wala ka bang ipadadala sa akin dito?' Ano ibig sabihin nun? Di ba pera yun?"
He also pointed out that Tuason's own fear of going to jail is fueling her drive to turn state witness and testify before the Senate
"I sympathize with her when she said she would rather die than go to jail. Undoubtedly, a person that desperate will say anything and do everything to avoid going to jail, which to her is worse than death," he said.
"Alam ko si Tita Ruby hindi niya ninanais na makita niya ako sa kulungan but she was forced to do so. She was forced to execute this affidavit to save her own neck. Ayaw niya makulong."
Estrada also laughed at Tuason's statement that she decided to come clean about her part in the scam after seeing the effects of super typhoon Yolanda.
"Susmaryosep naman, matagal ko na kakilala si Tita Ruby. Kahit kailan ho, hindi hi tumutulong sa mahihirap yan. E bakit nung nakaraang Bagyong Ondoy? Nandito pa siya noon. Andaming bagyong dumaan, andaming kalamidad na dumaan sa bansa. Did she ever go or exert any effort to go the places na nasalanta ng bagyo? Did she ever try to help our marginzalized sector. Never. That is not her style," he said.
Estrada said he has nothing to fear about the possible testimonies of Justa Tantoco, the former chief aide of his mother Loi Estrada, and actor Mat Ranillo III. Both personalities are being summoned to the Senate hearing after Tuason linked them to the scam.
Ranillo has been identified as one of the agents of Napoles for Estrada.
"I have never had dealings with Mat Ranillo. Kilala ko yan, siyempre artista. Pareho kami ng industriyang pinanggagalingan. Hanggang dun lang ang aming pagkakaibigan," he said.
He said the last time they met was during the wake of Rudy Fernandez in 2008.
What angers him, however, is the insinuations that his own mother, former Senator Loi Estrada, is being implicated in the scam.
"Sana wag na idamay ang nanay ko. Kung gusto nilang ako ang ibaon, ako na lang puntiryahin. Wag na yung nanay ko," he said in a separate DZMM interview.
Estrada said he has no plans to face Tuason in the Senate hearing since he might be accused of bullying her if she cited her in contempt.
However, he criticized Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman TG Guingona for calling Tuason's testimony as a "three-point shot."
He said Guingona could be accused of committing an "offensive foul" for believing Tuason's testimony without any evidence while judging his fellow senators.
"Parang binabalya niya yung kapwa senador niya para lamang maka-shoot o makapuntos sa pamumulitika," he said.