A contractual employee who is allegedly the "bag woman" of two Customs officials appeared before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Wednesday morning to corroborate the statements made by fixer Mark Taguba.
Mae Escueto, a contractual employee since 2014 and assigned at the Bureau of Custom's Intelligence and Investigation Service (CIIS), validated what Taguba had said during the hearing on September 25th.
In that hearing, Taguba said he was in conversation with a personality acting on behalf of Customs Director Neil Estrella and CIIS team leader Joel Pinawin.
Escueto claimed to have received money from Taguba for her boss on three occasions, or every Friday.
She first met Taguba early April when her husband, Ricardo "Tisoy" Carvajal, called her up. Her husband asked her to assist Taguba who wanted to meet with Pinawin.
After the meeting, Taguba asked for her cellphone number so he could text her before he comes to see Pinawin again.
She claimed that Pinawin directed her to call Taguba on April 7th, a Friday, to remind him about "yung kay Sir Joel at kay Director."
A week after, or on April 12, Pinawin asked her to call Taguba again. However, Taguba replied by saying he will do it the following week.
On April 21, Escueto said she was asked to remind Taguba again, "sabihin dalawa na."
"Team building namin May 5, Friday. Maaga pa lang sinabihan ako ni Sir Joel na tawagan si Mark. Dapat 12 O'clock nandito na yung para sa kanila. Sabi ni Mark masyadong maaga at wala pa siyang mauutusan kung pwedeng magpadala ng tao," Escueto said.
When she relayed this to Pinawin, he told her to get it herself from Taguba's office in Intramuros.
"Naka-envelop po, yung brown envelope dalawa po," she said. She knew that the envelopes contained money because, "mahaba po e."
CIIS TEAM LEADER SAYS ACCUSATIONS 'ALL LIES'
She was only able to hand it over to Pinawin when they were already in Batangas for the teambuilding activity.
Taguba said that the envelope for the "director" contained cash not less than P50,000 and around P10,000-P20,000 for Pinawin.
Escueto also revealed that Pinawin asked her to give him her SIM card.
"Sabi po niya nung August 8, umaga, akin na yung SIM card mo, basta akin na. Bili ka na lang ng bagong SIM card. Tinanggal ko na po kasi nasa harapan ko na siya," she said.
Pinawin then gave her money to buy a new SIM card.
When she asked her if she could have her SIM card back because her contacts are still there, Pinawin said "saka na."
But Pinawin said he did not take Escueto's SIM card.
"Wala ho akong kinukuhang SIM card ni May. Bakit ko naman po kukunin SIM card ni May?" he said.
Escueto's husband was also dragged into the picture. Taguba said that after Escueto, Pinawin also asked Escueto's husband to collect for him.
Pinawin debunked Escueto's and Taguba's claim as all lies.
"Lahat po ng sinabi ni May kasinungalingan po ito. Wala po akong inutos kay May at sa asawa niya. Maliwanag po dito na kung naguusap man sila at nagte-text, transaksiyon nilang dalawa yan, personal nilang usapan yan," Pinawin said.
'BATA NI TAGUBA?'
Pinawin also showed a newspaper allegedly run by Taguba's father. He said Escueto's husband, also known as "Tisoy", is a columnist of Taguba.
"Unang-una po yung asawa po ni May, yung live-in partner niya, batang-sarado po ni Taguba," he said.
"Minsan nung nakausap ko si Tisoy nung nagdaang panahon, si Tisoy mismo nagkuwento nung nag vice mayor sa Cagayan, si Tisoy mismo ang nagba-bodyguard sa kanya. Pangalawa, si Tisoy, kolumnista ni Ruben Taguba doon sa Customs na diyaryo niya," he pointed out.
He added that Escueto, Tisoy and Taguba all conspired to bring him down.
"Bakit mo ba ako sinisira dito? Ako nanghuli kay Mark Taguba sa shabung pinarating nila. Ako rin po mismo ang kumuha sa kanya sa Manila Hotel kasama si Kenneth Dong," he said.
Estrella, for his part, also denied receiving any envelope from Taguba.
"Also, with May, I did not receive any money nor I did instructions to May to collect for me. Certain Tisoy, I know him by name. He usually texts me for interview regarding our actions in BoC when I was still spokesperson at Customs, but only through text and one time I met him in a press conference. The more that I will not allow anybody of that profile uutusan ko siya to collect for us," Estrella said.