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Ruby Tuason pays P40M, gets immunity in exchange for ‘pork’ testimony

(Updated 5:29 p.m.) The Office of the Ombudsman has granted immunity to Ruby Tuason in exchange for her testimony and documents related to the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

At a press briefing in Quezon City on Friday, Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan said the Ombudsman found the testimony of Tuason "necessary" to the pork barrel probe.

"As evaluated by the special panel, as approved by the Ombudsman, the proposed testimony of Tuason was found to be necessary in determining the truth in acts committed," he said.

He added that Tuason "was an eyewitness or has personal knowledge on certain parts of the alleged PDAF scam," noting that her testimony may act as evidence linking the implicated senators to the alleged scam as she allegedly has direct knowledge in their transactions.

Rafanan warned that the immunity will be revoked if ever Tuason fails to "faithfully discharge her undertakings, breaches any of the warranties, commitments and undertakings, or materially deviates from her undertakings and her sworn statements."

Tuason will also be reinstated as respondent should she stray from her sworn statement, and would be charged with perjury or false testimony.

He also clarified that the immunity only covers cases related to the alleged pork barrel scam. "It does not cover criminal cases outside of the PDAF cases," he said.

In Manila, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Tuason is not yet off the hook as she remains a respondent in the alleged P900-million Malampaya gas fund scam.

P40 million

Rafanan also said Tuason, who was among those recommended to be charged with plunder in connection with the anomaly, has returned to the government the P40 million she allegedly received from the scam.

He noted that the amount was based on what Tuason admitted to have received as commission from the pork barrel scam.
"Tuason, herself, and as far her own statement, having received more or less 5 percent of the amount, if you are going to compute that, it could be more or less P40 million," he said.
Rafanan, however, clarified that the return of the amount "was not one of the major considerations" for granting the immunity agreement.
"It just so happened that she voluntarily offered to return the P40 million, and the office cannot reject that offer because Tuason was already volunteering," he said. "The return of the money was just a minor considerations."
He noted that the amount was received by the Office of the Ombudsman, and will be remitted to the national treasury.
Tuason used to work for former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, father of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, one of the three senators implicated in the scam. The others are Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Bong Revilla Jr.

In her testimony before the Senate blue ribbon committee last February, Tuason said she personally delivered pork barrel kickbacks to the younger Estrada, who has repeatedly denied benefiting from the scam.

She also told the committee that she was the one who introduced alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles to Jinggoy.

Tuason arrived in Manila last February from San Francisco to face the charges against her.

Jinggoy not surprised

Reached for comment, Estrada said the Ombudsman's granting of immunity to Tuason did not surprise him.

"At the onset I expected that Mrs. Ruby Tuason will be granted immunity although she was included as one of the accused by the DOJ and the NBI and in the joint resolution in earlier issued by the Ombudsman to make it appear that there was a semblance of fairness to this ongoing investigation," he said.

He went on to say that the pork barrel scam case "is already a done deal and the only real targets of this persecution from the very beginning are the three senators."

Malacañang, for its part, said it hopes Tuason's testimony will help the case.

"We hope that with such immunity, Ms. Tuason can reveal the whole truth, thus, aiding in our quest for justice," Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a text message to reporters. –with Kimberly Jane Tan/KBK/RSJ, GMA News