MANILA - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago believes the testimony of Dennis Cunanan, director general on-leave of the Technology Resource Center (TRC), will help pin down the legislators linked to the pork barrel scam.
She believes, however, that Cunanan is not as innocent as he claims.
In a press conference after the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing on Thursday, Santiago told reporters that Cunanan's "testimony would be sufficient to convict in a court of law, but you [also] have to weigh it together with the testimony of Ruby Tuason, so that makes the two of them.”
In his testimony, Cunanan said senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla directly chose the non-government organizations where they would course their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations.
Estrada and Revilla, Cunanan recalled, had reprimanded his office for supposedly delaying the release of the funds to the NGOs connected to businesswoman Janet Napoles.
Cunanan said the paperwork for PDAF-funded projects usually takes a maximum 30 days. Both senators, however, wanted to hasten the process so they pressed him to speed up the approvals.
In Enrile’s case, Cunanan said the former Senate president did not follow up the paperwork himself, and that the TRC dealt with Enrile's former chief of staff, Atty. Gigi Reyes.
Santiago said she believes Cunanan "is credible because he has knowledge of a lot of details. Credibility in a trial court is usually determined not by the general statement of the accused, particularly if this turns out to be vague, but from the specific details furnished by the accused or by any witness on the stand.”
She said Cunanan has “so many details that you would immediately, instinctively know he is telling the truth. He can’t possibly invent these transactional details because it will be very easy to prove him a liar just by interviewing people at the TRC. He was director general for about four years. You can grant him the presumption of regularity in the performance of his official functions.”
Cunanan dealt with the senators only via phone, however.
Santiago said there is lack of Philippine jurisprudence when it comes to phone calls as direct evidence. Nonetheless, these are already accepted in US courts, she said.
Santiago said she doubts Cunanan did not receive kickbacks from the pork barrel funds.
“I think you reached moral crossroads and said to yourself: I either join the kickback conspiracy or resign, but you did not do either one…Mahirap paniwalaan na di ka tumanggap, nakikita mong ginagawa na nila e,” she told Cunanan.
Cunanan claimed he was merely a co-signatory in the checks released to NGOs. He said there was a “legislative liaison officer” who was supposed to verify the authenticity of the NGOs chosen by the lawmakers.
He said he only took upon himself, even if it was not his job, to call and verify with the lawmakers’ offices.
Santiago explained: “He’s trying to prove that he is innocent. But in my former judge’s mind, it is entirely possible from experience in the courtroom that a witness might be false on some aspects of his testimony but might be credited with truth telling in the major aspects of his testimony. In other words, he’s telling not the whole truth. Let us say he’s telling ¾ truth, ¼ lie.”
This should not cancel his entire testimony, however, Santiago said.
“Many, many cases prove that a witness may still be considered as an eyewitness and can be the basis for a judgment even if in certain parts of his testimony, he appears to have told a lie…that’s human nature,” she said.