Atty. Jess Santos says he does not even know Ruby Tuason
MANILA (UPDATED) -- Ruby Tuason, one of the accused in the plunder cases related to the pork barrel and Malampaya fund scam, has implicated the lawyer of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo in the alleged misuse of P900-million Malampaya funds.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Tuason mentioned in her 15-page sworn statement the name of Atty. Jess Santos as the one who picked up kickbacks from her house for an "undisclosed principal."
"Ang sinasabi po ni Mrs. Tuason, kino-confirm niya na nagkaroon ng deliveries ng mga pera sa bahay niya, dun sa kapatid niya, yung namatay na niyang kapatid, at yun ang merong ka-deal," de Lima said.
"Pero yung paghahatid ng pera na-wiwitness daw niya yun. At may sinabi siyang pangalan na yun ang kumukuha ng pera sa bahay nila. And that can lead us to Jess Santos," she added.
The justice secretary then told reporters: "You all know who Jess Santos is."
Santos was a lawyer of the former First Gentleman.
Arroyo's wife, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was among those charged with plunder for allegedly pocketing funds obtained as royalties from the natural gas project off the seas of Palawan.
Arroyo's co-accused in the case include Tuason, former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, former Budget Secretary Rolando, and several others.
Whistleblowers said the funds went to fake non-government organizations (NGOs) set up by Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the pork barrel scam, and then diverted to private pockets.
Tuason allegedly pocketed P242.775 million in kickbacks "received through bank withdrawals for a still unidentified principal."
Mrs. Arroyo has denied that she is the unidentified principal of Tuason, whose late husband is a cousin of Mike Arroyo.
According to de Lima, they consider Tuason's revelation as a "very important development" in the case.
"This is a very important development kasi nung una hindi pa kami sigurado kung sino yung undisclosed principal. Now, with this revelation...then we will pursue this," she said.
"Yan po ang aming ibi-build ngayon. So finally we have an idea on who is the undisclosed principal," she added.
Tuason, who returned to the Philippines from the United States early morning on Friday, is now provisionally under the DOJ's Witness Protection Program (WPP).
Pork scam whistleblowers have identified Tuason, a former aide of ex-president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, as the one who allegedly received kickbacks for Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile in the PDAF scam.
Tuason is facing two plunder charges -- one for the pork barrel scam and the other for the Malampaya fund scam.
Santos denies link to fund scam
Speaking to ANC's "Top Story," Santos denied any links to the Malampaya fund scam and claimed that he does not even know who Tuason is.
He said there are many "Atty. Jess Santos" in the country. Thus, it is possible that the Jess Santos Tuason was referring to in her affidavit was not him, he said.
"Unang-unang pumasok sa isip ko eh napakarami namang Atty. Jess Santos. Baka kako hindi naman ako... Dahil kung ang binabanggit ay yang Malampaya fund na yan, eh sa diyaryo ko lang nababasa yan," he said.
"Kung maaari naman siguraduhin naman nila baka hindi ako ito. Napakaraming Atty. Jess Santos. Pero kung ako ang ibig nilang tukuyin, wag naman ganun. Bakit naman ganyan ang ginagawa nila sa akin," the 87-year-old lawyer added.
He said he met a certain Ruby Tuason who sold guns and ammunition 20 years ago.
"Hindi ko alam ang itsura ng babae na ito. Ni hindi ko alam kung saan nakatira itong babae na ito. Kaya nagtataka ako papaano ako nabaanggit diyan," he said.
Nonetheless, he said he is ready to face the Ombudsman to prove that he was not involved in the anomaly.
"I am ready to face any forum. I am even ready to face my God and tell my God and the people that I had nothing to do with this," Santos said.