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Ombudsman’s P40-M deal with Tuason stinks

When accused-turned-state witness Ruby Tuason on May 2 handed over P40 million in manager’s check to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, which she said was the amount in commissions she got from Janet Napoles’ pork-barrel scam, nobody raised an eyebrow.

Many seemed to believe her testimony in the hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee barely three months before, that she had to sell her Dasmarinas house to raise the money.

A few would have even sympathized with her when she seemed to sniffle as she said her house in posh Dasmarinas Village was all she had.

How she played us.

However, with Napoles’ May 12 sworn affidavit of 56 pages, the stink of Tuason’s P40 million deal with the Ombudsman is coming out. So much so that it’s astonishing why they had the gall to think that they could get away with it.

In her February 4, 2014 affidavit, Tuason actually didn’t even admit to any crime or wrongdoing.

Tuason, given immunity by the Ombudsman, handing over the P40 million check May 2. Why is Justice Secretary de Lima frowning? After Napoles’ recent affidavit, we now know.

Tuason, given immunity by the Ombudsman, handing over the P40 million check May 2. Why is Justice Secretary de Lima frowning? After Napoles’ recent affidavit, we now know.

When asked how much she got from the pork barrel scam, Tuason replied:

“I could not recall the total amount I received from Janet Napoles as commission for the completed transaction from the PDAF of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.” (PDAF means the Priority Development Assistance Program, the official name for the pork-barrel funds.)

It was in the Senate hearing in February that Tuason said upon questioning that she got a total of P40 million in commissions from Napoles. Almost in a cavalier way as if she just forgot about money she borrowed, she said she would return it.

Tuason in her short, 15-page affidavit admitted to be privy to only two pork-barrel transactions.

Her admission was only by way of replying to questions by National Bureau of Investigation officials who took her affidavit, when they showed her data they said they got from whistle-blower Benhur Luy. The two transactions involved P20 million in the case of Enrile’s PDAF, and P9 million in Jinggoy Estrada’s.

Tuason probably even in her worst nightmare didn’t expect Napoles to issue an affidavit that disclosed her version of the scam, since she wouldn’t incriminate herself.

But apparently pushed to a corner, literally to a police headquarters’ dingy barracks, she did.

The biggest revelation in Napole’s May 12 affidavit was her allegation that Tuason played a much bigger role and got larger dirty money than she claims not only through the pork barrel scam but in the still mysterious P900 million Malampaya Fund theft, which is yet to be investigated.

Unlike Tuason’s affidavit that contained very scant details, Napoles in her affidavit even reported the serial numbers for the budget department’s SAROs (Special Allotment Release Orders, or its documents ordering the release of the funds) for 40 pork barrel allocations.

Tuason’s loot: P615 million
She explained how the proceeds were distributed: 40-50 percent to the legislator; 5-10 percent to the “agent” (Tuason and several others); 2-15 percent to the implementing agency, and 5-10 percent for her o expenses and profits.

Out of the 40 pork barrel deals she reported in detail, Napoles sad that Tuason was the agent in 15 of these, with her total take amounting to P75 million.

But Tuason’s biggest take, Napoles alleged, was through the theft of the Malampaya Fund, which she said was Tuason’s own operation from the start. As it was Tuason’s deal, her “rebate”—the term Napoles used—was a big 60 percent, which amounted to P540 million.

Napoles even wrote that it was from Tuason’ take from the Malampaya Fund that she was able to build a P300 million house in Mahogany St., in Dasmariñas Village. If we use data from property listings, that seems to be a more accurate price for a posh Dasmariñas mansion instead of the P40 million Tuason said was how much she could sell her property in the Senate hearing.

Tuason’s total take both from the PDAF (P75 million) and Malampaya (P540 million) operations, according to Napoles’ affidavit, was a stunning P615 million.

This is certainly much, much bigger than the P40 million she told the NBI and the Ombudsman was her take in her dealings with Napoles.

And this is why the Ombudsman’s P40 million deal with Tuason, her acquisition of immunity as state witness Protection Program stinks to high heaven now.

If I were in Tuason’s shoes, and I had P640 million, and faced with the prospects of staying in jail my whole life (“I’d rather die than be in prison,” Tuason said in the Senate hearing), I’d give P40 million to government as a PR move (a brilliant one it seems) so I’d be portrayed as remorseful.

I’d then use P500 million to buy my investigators, maybe even the Ombudsman. That kind of money is certainly enough: everyone has his or her price.

And I’d still have P100 million left to retire in peace.

So the people I bribe won’t be worried, I’ll make the payments in bank accounts set up in the US, or even in the Bahamas, to be witnessed by the NBI officers who will accompany me there.

My suspicions will be totally unfounded, and I would apologize for even having such suspicions, if the Ombudsman and the Justice Department would do the following:

• Release publicly the deed of sale of her Dasmarinas house the proceeds from which supposedly raised the P40 million returned to government.

• Make public the report of the Ombudsman’s “special panel” that evaluated and approved Tuason’s application for immunity, including the names of the panel members;

• Make public the bank accounts of the members of the special panel, Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan who headed it, officers who accompanied Tuason to the US, and even Ombudsman Morales, and a report the Anti Money Laundering Council (AMLC) would make on whether or not these officers opened bank accounts in the US or elsewhere this year, or whether there were significant deposits in their past bank accounts if they had such.

Ombudsman took Tuason’s word
Did the Ombudsman evaluate or tried to check if P40 million was all Tuason got from the pork-barrel scam?

No. Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan who is in charge of the Tuason case said that their investigators took her word that P40 million was all she gained from the scam, adding that they saw no need to verify the figure and get proof that she declared the right amount.

“There’s no need because the P40 million amount was admitted by Tuason herself and computed by herself as 5 percent of the total amount,” Rafanan said. That’s so stupid that it points to complicity.

In the impeachment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, Morales risked violating bank secrecy laws by getting the AMLC to pry open his bank accounts, which she then publicly disclosed, even falsely distorting the calculation of accounts as to falsely claim that Corona had $10 million. And that was only to prove that Corona wasn’t reporting everything in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities.

In this case a mammoth crime even involving legislators is being investigated. Tuason has admitted to the crime of stealing government funds and is accused of being one of the main perpetrators of that crime.

Yet Morales didn’t ask the AMLC to check Tuason’s bank accounts, to determine if there are huge amounts there explainable only if she had acquired dirty money, as Napoles claimed, from the pork-barrel and Malampaya scams.

With the information Napoles revealed in her sworn affidavit, anybody who’s investigated or written about graft in the judicial process, would smell a mile away the stink from the P40 million deal the Ombudsman struck with Tuason.

Look again at the photo when Tuason gave the P40 million to government: there is something wrong with it, as I felt the first time I saw it in newspapers. It’s a well-taken photo, the kind a professional PR man’s photographer would take, and not just some photo taken by an Ombudsman clerk. It even looks like those photos released to publicize magnates donating money to some charity.

We are being played. There is a script that started when she got back from the US in May, so we’ll believe that Tuason has had a miraculous change of heart, and that she is helping government prosecute the corrupt in the pork barrel scam.

Maybe that’s why justice secretary Leila de Lima is frowning in that photo.

When the Ombudsman made that deal, Napoles had already narrated to her the extent of Tuason’s involvement in the pork barrel and Malampaya scams, and was mad that the Ombudsman took her as a state witness.

When the investigators need to be investigated, we are in deep, deep trouble as a nation.