Tuason leaves Phl to raise P40 million
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - March 6, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Ruby Tuason, a provisional state witness in the pork barrel scam cases, quietly left the country last weekend reportedly to fulfill her commitment to the government to return the P40-million commission she admitted having received for her role in the scam, her lawyer revealed yesterday.

Counsel Dennis Manalo confirmed to reporters in the Department of Justice (DOJ) that Tuason flew to Hong Kong on a Cathay Pacific flight at 6 p.m. last March 2.

“She coordinated with the DOJ-Witness Protection Program (WPP) for her travel. There is no hold departure against her so she does not need permission. She left to attend to personal matters, foremost of which is to finance her commitment to return P40 million to the government,” Manalo explained.

“There is nothing else that she should be doing here in the Philippines and she has started talking to people on how she would be able to finance her commitments,” he said.

He added his client would also fly to Los Angeles, California, but did not give details of her itinerary.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima berated Bureau of Immigration officials, including its spokesperson Maria Angelica Pedro, for announcing Tuason’s leaving the country. BI said Tuason would return to the country on April 5.

De Lima summoned BI Commissioner Siegfred Mison to her office to explain the incident.

“What personality does she have to make such announcement? She has no authority or clearance to do so,” she told reporters in an ambush interview, referring to the BI spokesperson.

“She shouldn’t have done that because Tuason is covered by the confidentiality rule under the WPP,” De Lima said.

Still, she declined to confirm Tuason’s departure, saying “it should be confidential information and we are not supposed to be disclosing it.”

Tuason, former social secretary of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada when he was president, is among those criminally charged in connection with the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Malampaya fund.

As a provisional state witness, she remains a respondent in the plunder complaint and other charges pending before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Miscommunication

Mison, meanwhile, dismissed the bureau’s unauthorized announcement of Tuason’s foreign trip as a product of miscommunication.

He admitted that Pedro had coordinated with him on the announcement.

“I think there was a miscommunication and that is why we now have a minor controversy,” he said.

“The DOJ secretary’s directive is that I would have to require our spokesperson to explain the reasons why on the issuance of the statement. We were not aware of such statements,” he added. The BI is an attached agency of the DOJ.

Mison said he would look into the matter and would submit a proposal for the adoption of a standard operating procedure for dealing with such situation.

Asked if Pedro would be suspended, he said, “I do not know. I still have to know the reasons and it would be the secretary who would evaluate.”

At present, the BI does not have a policy on disclosing information on people under the WPP.

“What we have is lookout bulletin since she (Tuason) was there in the lookout bulletin. We thought about our monitoring duties but for WPP information, we need to establish clear set of guidelines not only for the media but also for everyone else in the bureau,” he said. – With Evelyn Macairan, Rudy Santos

BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION CATHAY PACIFIC COMMISSIONER SIEGFRED MISON COUNSEL DENNIS MANALO DE LIMA DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HONG KONG JUSTICE SECRETARY LEILA LOS ANGELES TUASON
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