MANILA (1st UPDATE) - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago described as “bull's eye” the testimony of Ruby Tuason, the former social secretary of ex-President Joseph Estrada, which pins down Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile to the pork barrel scam.
During her interpellation of Tuason at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Thursday, Santiago said Tuason, a socialite who personally delivered pork barrel kickbacks to Estrada and Enrile's former chief of staff, Jessica 'Gigi' Reyes, meets all the requirements for a state witness.
“In fact, you are a perfect and intelligent state witness,” Santiago said.
“Ano pa ba ang kailangan dito? Kailangang patayin itong si Mrs. Tuason but her testimony remains on record…so this is considered her dying declaration,” she said.
During the hearing, Tuason reaffirmed her affidavit submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that, on one occasion, she personally delivered the money to the younger Estrada by passing through the parking area exclusively used by senators so that the money would not be seen by security staff who man other entrances of the Senate.
"[By passing through the parking area] Nobody ever bothered to check my bag,” she said.
Some of the kickbacks were turned over in meetings in restaurants. Tuason said she would meet Reyes on Pasay Road in Makati City or at the Fort, Taguig City. The high-end restaurants where they met include Tsukiji, Mamou, Gourmand, and L’Opera.
The kickbacks were placed in either a duffel bag or hand-carried bag, depending on the amounts, she said.
In Enrile's case, Tuason said she served as bagman for businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and Reyes but was later excluded.
“I personally received the share of Enrile and personally gave it to Gigi, who picked it up personally in my house or in a place where we could have coffee," she said.
Tuason said there were instances when Enrile would come to pick up Reyes but would not mention anything about any transaction.
Despite not being the one who accepted the kickbacks, Santiago said Enrile's behavior, whenever he would pick up Reyes during the deliveries by Tuason, is “still incriminatory."
"Silence means consent. Kung ikaw ang boyfriend, ano ang gagawin mo dun? You will ask [your girlfriend what she’s doing] before you pick her up. The people facing Valentine’s Day know it’s the SOP [Standard Operating Procedure]," she said.
DENIALS VS PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE
Santiago noted that Tuason’s affidavit contains specific names and details. On the other hand, Enrile and Estrada have only issued denials, she said.
“Like all trial lawyers, I have learned that a positive assertion like your affidavit is given more weight in law than a negative assertion like the denials of your adversaries,” she said.
In several Supreme Court decisions, Santiago said denial has always been a weak defense.
Santiago said Tuason has direct evidence against the two, having delivered the money right in front of them.
She also commented on Tuason’s non-committal answers. “I can understand you can’t commit to specific statements about the implication of the fact that Enrile used to go to where you have an appointment with the chief of staff and bring coffee without saying anything about your prior conversation.”
Tuason said she introduced Reyes to Napoles due to the latter’s insistence. At that time, Napoles wanted to air her side after being linked to the fertilizer fund scam.
Reyes initially did not want to meet Napoles, she said.
Tuason said she was later left out of the transactions with Enrile, and only Reyes and Napoles were the ones already directly transacting.
“When I asked if they have already been transacting directly, hindi naman na umaamin," she said.
When she was still the bagman, Tuason said received 5% commission or less.
Tuason said she was also later left out of the deals with Estrada. “Matagal nang walang transaction, but I was still close to them. It did not really upset me because they have always denied it anyway. Even if I knew, they never admitted transacting directly.”
Santiago asked: “Were you motivated by anger or frustration against him? Before you left the Philippines, was there any significant disagreement between you and him on the one hand; or between you and Senator Enrile on the other hand, such as today you would be motivated by revenge?”
Tuason said she never got upset that she was cut out of the deals.
She said she got to talk to Estrada when the pork barrel scam came out. “I asked, ‘ano maitutulong mo sa akin?’ Wala. Wala raw syang maitutulong, so medyo shocked ako.”
Santiago asked why Napoles chose Enrile and Estrada even if there were 22 other senators. “Anak sya [Estrada] ng dati kong boss [President Joseph Estrada]. With Enrile, maybe because I was close to Gigi.”
Santiago added: “Ano kaya ang gayuma nilang dalawa na sila lang ang napili? Or sa negosyong ito, kilala na kaya sila?”