MANILA - The lawyer of former social secretary Ruby Tuason denied Monday that he is a puppet of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile despite working for the past 18 years in the law firm founded by Enrile's relative.
Speaking to [email protected], lawyer Dennis Manalo confirmed that he was a former law partner of Siguion-Reyna, Montecillo and Ongsiako law firm since 1996. The law firm was founded by Leonardo Siguion-Reyna, the late husband of Armida Sigioun-Reyna, a half sister of Enrile.
Manalo said he resigned last month after taking on the case of Tuason, who has directly linked Enrile to the alleged P10 billion pork barrel scam.
"I am no longer a partner of the Siguion-Reyna law firm. I withdrew from the partnership and upon Mrs. Tuason's return I have already been acting independently as a lawyer for her," he said.
Manalo denied insinuations that he is being used by Senator Enrile to derail the ongoing investigation in the pork barrel scam.
He noted that when he joined the law firm in 1996, Enrile had already "withdrawn from the partnership 30 years earlier."
Enrile was a law partner in Ponce Enrile Siguion Reyna Montecillo Belo and Ongsiako Law Offices from 1954 to 1966. He left this firm after he joined the Marcos government in 1966 as finance undersecretary.
In 1983, Enrile founded the Ponce Enrile Reyes & Manalastas law firm.
Manalo also pointed out that he and Enrile took opposing positions in the past, particularly during the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.
Manalo defended Corona during the trial while Enrile presided over the impeachment proceedings before voting to convict the chief magistrate.
"If the idea being proposed is I am a puppet of Senator Enrile, I think the public has seen that I have already taken a position contrary to Senator Enrile and this was during the impeachment. I was defending the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at that time and he was of a different opinion," he said.
"The point here is - in terms of my connection with Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, I don't think there is any kind of basis for that. If you will describe Ruby Tuason's testimony as sabotage or collusion with Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, it cannot be based on suspicion or speculation or what you call haka-haka. You need to show that there is some proof that will establish that collusion and if the only proof is that Senator Enrile was part of the Siguion-Reyna, Montecillo and Ongsiako law firm 40 years now...we are 40 years far removed from that connection," he added.
"The connection is too remote to even be true or even considered as a connection."
Asked why he quit the law firm last month after 18 years as a partner, he confirmed that taking on the Tuason case was one of the considerations that made him take the leap.
He also said a lot of clients had been advising him to go independent.
"Kasi sa Siguion-Reyna mahal daw maningil. Kung ako lang, mas mura," he said.
He also defended Tuason's testimony before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the pork barrel scam last week. He said whistle-blowers like Tuason are important to show how so-called white collar crimes are conducted in a compartmentalized manner.
Tuason earlier told senators that she delivered millions of pesos in pork barrel kickbacks to Senator Jinggoy Estrada and Atty. Gigi Reyes, the former chief of staff of Senator Enrile.
Senator Antonio Trillanes has said Tuason's testimony was lacking in detail and was not the "slam dunk" evidence described by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
Manalo, however, said de Lima assessed Tuason's testimony based on her job to present a case before the Ombudsman that will show probable cause against the respondents.
He said Senator TG Guingona's statement that Tuason's testimony was a "buzzer beater" only showed that he had enough to draft remedial legislation to "prevent the recurrence of things like this."
What is important, Manalo said, is how a judge will assess Tuason's testimony. He said only one senator who interpellated Tuason last week has experience as a trial judge.
"Among all the senators, it is only Senator Miriam [Defensor Santiago] who has experience as a trial judge. She saw the case and appreciated the evidence independently. Para sa kanya, yung circumstancial evidence maliwanag na. Malakas yun," he said.
Santiago earlier said the mere presence of Senator Enrile during the times when his chief of staff Atty. Gigi Reyes met with Ruby Tuason is enough proof of a conspiracy, and proves Enrile's guilt "to a moral certainty."