MANILA -- "I don't want to die with millions of Filipinos hating me. I don't want to die with my grandchildren being ashamed of me."
This was the statement given by Ruby Tuason when she was asked what triggered her change of heart to return to the Philippines from the US and reveal what she knows about the multi-billion pork barrel scam.
During Senator Benigno "Bam" Aquino IV's interpellation of Tuason at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Thursday, the former aide of ex-President Joseph "Erap" Estrada said she decided to return to the country due to the guilt she was feeling over everything that she has done.
Tuason has admitted delivering pork barrel kickbacks to Senator Jinggoy Estrada and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile's former chief of staff, Atty. Jessica "Gigi" Reyes, from Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the scam. She, in turn, received commissions from the businesswoman.
Estrada and Enrile are two of the three senators facing plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the anomaly. They are accused of conspiring with Napoles in funneling billions of their priority development assistance funds (PDAF) to fake non-governmental organizations (NGOs) set up by Napoles.
Tuason, who is also one of the accused in the pork barrel scam case, said she was ashamed of what she has done. She said she does not want to die being hated by her own family and the Filipino people.
"There was a church I found [in US] that was open 24 hours, and I just found myself going there every day. Talagang iyak na lang ako ng iyak. Hiyang-hiya ako sa sarili ko. Hindi ako makapaniwala of what I did. I felt so guilty," she said.
"And then my grandchildren would always call me [via] Skype, and they would always ask me 'When are you coming home?'"
Turning emotional, Tuason said: "I don't want to die with millions of Filipinos hating me. I don't want to die with my grandchildren being ashamed of me. So I felt I have to do something. I have to correct my mistake. And I cannot possibly right a wrong with another wrong."
While in the US, she noted that she was also able to watch on television the devastation wrought by super typhoon "Yolanda" in the Visayas last November.
She said what she saw made her feel more guilty.
"Mas lalo akong naguilty... Lalo akong nanghina. Sabi ko I have to do something. Araw-araw akong nasa simbahan, humihingi ng tawad sa ginawa ko, pero hindi naman pwedeng lip service lahat. I think I have to do something, sacrifice something to be able to feel better and make my conscience clear," she said.
She said she is willing to return the commission she got from her involvement in the scam even if she would have to sell her house.
"It's a very small price to pay," she said.
Tuason, who has yet to be granted full immunity from lawsuit by the Office of the Ombudsman, said she is aware of all the risks of her spilling the beans on her knowledge of the anomaly.
"I know that it is a big risk. But I wanted to be sure that if I were to die , assassinated or of natural causes, at least I can meet my maker and ask for forgiveness," she said.