MANILA – During Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada’s bail hearing on Monday, Estrada’s lawyers and state witness Ruby Tuason’s lawyer’s arguments ended in heated talks.
The lawyers argued over Tuason’s role in the Malampaya fund scam and its connection with Estrada’s plunder case.
Estrada’s lawyer Sabino Acut Jr. first asked Tuason if she applied for immunity from all charges related to multi-billion pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles’ bogus foundations.
Tuason’s lawyer Hazel Decena Valdez then objected, asserting that Acut’s question had no relevance to Estrada’s plunder case which was mainly about the alleged misappropriation of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
The Court, however, permitted the question.
Tuason then admitted applying ‘immunity for all’ under the under the Witness Protection Program.
Susequently, Acut asked Tuason again, this time about the delivery of Malampaya funds to her house.
To this, Tuason’s lawyer Dennis Manalo accused Acut of harassing his client, claiming that the defense lawyer was going against the ‘witness’ right to self-incrimination that were touching on the merits of the Malampaya which had nothing to do with the case.’
Acut then started the heated exchange by loudly saying that Tuason’s involvement ‘was marked as evidence by the prosecutors.
Manalo shouted back, saying that it was ‘his right as a lawyer to protect’ his client.
Estrada’s lawyer Paul Mar Arias then joined the argument, questioning Manalo’s authority to intervene while his client was being cross examined.
Amidst the growing tension, Associate Justice Roland Jurado banged his gavel in an attempt to stop the heated exchange but Arias kept on talking, earning him a 500-peso fine.
When the shouting ended, Valdez then stressed that ‘the witness had the right not to be harassed.’
Responding yet again, Acut pointed out that he only made one gesture.
Diverting from Tuason’s involvement in the Malampaya fund scam, the state witness earlier admitted that she served as Estrada’s agent in 2004 and 2008, delivering kickbacks to the senator’s house and office from Napoles’ nonexistent projects using his PDAF funds.
Tuason, for her part, received 5 and 10 percent commissions on two transactions. She had, however, already returned her P40-million commission to become a state witness.