By Jelly F. Musico
MANILA, Feb. 13 (PNA) – Sen. Jinggoy Estrada on Thursday vehemently denied the testimony of Ruby Tuason in the Senate where the co-accused turned witness in the pork barrel scam claimed she gave kickback money to the senator in his Senate office in 2008.
”I vehemently denied that she gave money twice here in the Senate. I’m very confident that she did not bring any money here,” Estrada said in a Senate media interview few hours after Tuason testified in the Senate inquiry into the alleged misuse of priority development assistance fund (PDAF).
”I have said it before and I am saying it again, I have not asked nor received any kickbacks or commissions from Mrs. Tuason,” he added.
Estrada also reiterated his request to the Senate leadership to check and immediately make public the CCTV (closed-circuit television) footages wherein Tuason allegedly delivered money to Estrada at the basement parking of the Senate building.
Estrada also described as “a total lie” Tuason’s claim that the senator directly dealt with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind, regarding his PDAF.
”I never had any dealings with Mrs. Napoles, either directly or indirectly regarding my PDAF,” he said.
Contrary to Senate Blue Ribbon chairman Teofisto Guingona III’s claim, Estrada said Tuason is not a credible witness.
”It is quite obvious from Mrs. Tuason’s body language and her replies from the questions propounded on her as well as the information shared to the committee that she had no recollection of events on her own,” Estrada said.
The senator said he noticed that Tuason usually conferred with whistleblower Benhur Luy every time she rattled for answers from senators.
”As seen on live national television, she has to confer with Benhur Luy and constantly referred to her affidavit and other papers to answer the questions from the senators. If she is really telling the truth, why can’t she recall such instances from her own memory and not rely from written statement? Mrs. Tuason is merely being fed all these information,” Estrada said.
”I symphatize with her when she said that she’d rather die than go to jail. Undoubtedly, a person that desperate will say anything and do everything to avoid going to jail, which to her is worse than death,” he said.
If Guingona described Tuason’s testimonies as a game-winning three-point shot, Estrada said the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman should be charged with “offensive foul” for pre-judging the statement of Tuason without evidence.
Earlier, Guingona said Tuason’s statements is enough to pin down Estrada over the alleged misuse of his PDAF.
”He is trying to box out fellow senators for him to score for his early political ambition. He wanted to improve further his rating in the next election,” Estrada said.
But when asked to comment on Sen. Miriam Santiago’s bulls eye description of Tuason’s testimonies, Estrada could only reply: “She has her own opinion. She has the right. That is her opinion. I have also the right to express my own opinion. I will not debate with her.”
Estrada also denied Tuason’s claim that she delivered some P11 million kickback in his residence in Green Hills in San Juan in 2004.
”How she can claim she gave me such amount in September 2004 when in fact, I received my SARO (special allotment release order) in December of that year. I was newly elected senator then,” Estrada explained.
Meanwhile, Estrada welcomed the plan of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to invite his driver Alfredo delos Reyes and security personnel Ferdinand Panalyon who allegedly carried the bag containing the kickback money for Estrada.
”It’s okay for me. They can invite them. I will not prevent them from attending the Senate hearing,” he said.
Estrada also said he will not take leave of absence as senator because “I have done nothing wrong.”
Aside from Estrada, Tuason claimed she also delivered money to Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile through his former chief of staff Atty. Gigi Reyes.
Estrada said it was not Tuason but Lorna Tolentino who introduced Napoles to him.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has already filed plunder complaints against Estrada, Enrile and Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. before the Office of the Ombudsman. (PNA)