MANILA – State witness Ruby Tuason admitted before the Sandiganbayan that she was indeed a former agent of Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, delivering to him commissions from the alleged multi-billion pork barrel scam.
Tuason also disclosed making the said transactions with purported mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, when she worked as Estrada’s agent in 2004 and 2008.
Tuason recalled first meeting Napoles as a buyer of a house she and her husband were selling in 2004. Learning that she was the former secretary of Jinggoy’s father, then President and now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada, Napoles asked to be introduced to the senator.
It was then that Napoles offered Estrada through Tuason deals from pork barrels. Napoles asserted that the senator could receive huge kickbacks from her projects, using his Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF).
Estrada did not abruptly said yes but later on asked his deputy chief of staff Pauline Labayen to call Napoles regarding the deal. The first project they worked on was worth about P37.5 million.
For this first project, Tuason received a bag containing P1.5 million cash from Napoles’ office. She then delivered it to Estrada’s house as the senator’s advance commissions.
“After receiving the money, I called up Senator Estrada and told him ‘I have money for you.’ I went to see him in his house in Greenhills, San Juan… I gave him the bag of money. I told him that was the advance commission for the project. He just said thank you. I didn’t stay long,” Tuason said.
After the budget department released a special allotment release order (SARO) for the said project, Tuason then delivered another bag containing P4.2 million cash to Estrada’s house as the senator’s remaining balance in his kickbacks.
But soon after the first two deliveries, Estrada backed out from getting involved with Napoles’ projects and asked that his commissions amounting to P5.7 million be returned.
“Just a few days after that, he called me up and said he was cancelling the transaction. I was surprised. I asked him why but he didn’t give me any specific reason,” Tuason said.
Tuason found out, however, that Estrada pushed through with the deal only with a different agent, Matt Ranillo.
Tuason disclosed again working as Estrada’s agent in 2008. For the second deal, Tuason yet again delivered commissions to Estrada’s house and office. She stopped serving as Estrada’s agent afterwards.
After her role in the two transactions, Tuason noticed Napoles’ appearance in Estrada’s parties so she was led to believe that the two had been transacting directly since then.