DOJ chief stands by Ruby

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 26 2014 10:34 AM | Updated as of Feb 26 2014 06:34 PM

MANILA- The Department of Justice (DOJ) is standing by the credibility of witness Ruby Tuason despite her denial of involvement in the P900-million Malampaya fund scam.

Secretary Leila de Lima said the DOJ has accepted the testimony of Tuason that she did not pocket over P242 million in kickbacks from the scam – contrary to earlier findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) based on statements of whistle-blowers led by Benhur Luy and documentary proof gathered.

“Her provisional coverage in the WPP (Witness Protection Program) applies to both the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scam and Malampaya scam,” De Lima told reporters yesterday.

De Lima stressed Tuason’s qualification as state witness would still depend on assessment of the Office of the Ombudsman, which is currently conducting preliminary investigation on the plunder and other charges related to both scams.

“Just like Dennis Cunanan, her status as state witness is provisional because the final say on the matter lies with the Ombudsman,” De Lima said, referring to former Technology Research Center director general Dennis Cunanan who revealed the details of the pork barrel scam involving several lawmakers.

De Lima said Tuason is set to come up with a supplemental affidavit on the Malampaya scam.

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III earlier expressed reservations on Tuason’s testimony on the Malampaya fund.

Tuason was among those charged for plunder in the Malampaya case. Based on evidence gathered by the NBI, including the statements of Luy, she allegedly pocketed over P242 million in kickbacks.

Tuason earlier agreed to return only P40 million to the government.

Cunanan to the hot seat

The Senate, on the other hand, would resume its hearings on the pork barrel scam issue with Cunanan invited to appear before the Blue Ribbon committee on Thursday.

Committee chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said he has spoken with De Lima, who confirmed Cunanan would be allowed to testify in the next hearing.

Guingona said the committee is just waiting for the submission of documents related to Cunanan’s testimony so that he could review them before the hearing.

So far, Guingona said Cunanan would be the only resource person invited.

However, the whistle-blowers led by Luy could still be invited to the hearing if there is a need to corroborate the statements of Cunanan.

This would be the second time that Cunanan would appear before the Blue Ribbon committee. He was present during the Sept. 12, 2013 hearing but did not say much at the time.

Guingona said there were several other resource persons during that hearing so there was no time to address Cunanan.

Cunanan has qualified as a state witness after providing testimony about his alleged conversations with Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, the former chief of staff of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.

Cunanan said he personally spoke with Estrada and Revilla over the phone and that they were pressing him to approve their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) projects that would be implemented by the non-government organizations of Napoles.

Estrada and Revilla have both denied talking to Cunanan and lobbying for the approval of their projects at the TRC. The two senators claimed they do not know him. – Marvin Sy