Actor thickens pork plot

Tuason, Luy bare Mat Ranillo’s role

ACTOR Mat Ranillo III is now being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation for his possible involvement in the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly orchestrated by Janet Lim-Napoles.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima disclosed that both whistleblower Benhur Luy and potential state witness Ruby Tuason mentioned the award-winning actor in the scheme that reportedly benefitted several lawmakers.

CaptionWhistle blowers attend Mass. From left,
whistle blowers Mary Arlene Baltazar, Benhur
Luy (Partly hidden) and Ruby Tuason (right)
walk toward the National Bureau of Investigation
building to attend a Mass on Wednesday.
The three are expected to face the Senate
committee investigating the alleged pork barrel scam.
Danny Pata
“That is now being looked into. It is in fact our duty to do that since there are some new (pieces of) information being provided by this new whistleblower that we have to pursue,” De Lima said in an interview.

Luy told NBI investigators that Ranillo introduced Napoles to several senators tagged in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.

Luy recalled that the Ranillo and Napoles had a falling out when the businesswoman no longer needed the actor after he made the introductions.

De Lima said Luy has revealed that Napoles had a deal with Ranillo.

“The first transaction that was cancelled was with Mat Ranillo,” De Lima said.

Ranillo reportedly presented vouchers issued by Napoles’ company, JLN Corp., to Estrada and his mother in 2005 as evidence to clear him in a civil suit. Investigators now say the vouchers link Estrada to Napoles.

Tuason also mentioned Ranillo in her affidavit in which she confessed to being the conduit between Napoles and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.

She said the transaction between Napoles and Estrada was “consummated through a certain Mr. Matt Ranillo showing the delivery of the sum of Php11,970,000.00 to a house at No. 1564 Mahogany Street, Dasmariñas Village, Makati City.”

She said the house belonged to Justa Tantoco, the former chief of staff of ex-senator Loi Ejercito, Estrada’s mother.

De Lima said Ranillo and Tantoco would be included in the NBI investigation on the strength of these statements.

Estrada said he was upset over reports linking his mother and Tantoco to the pork barrel scam.

“Well of course we both feel so upset with what’s happening right now. The timing is very, very suspicious. This should have come out in the open before if they really had the evidence, if they had the documents they were talking about.”

“My mother is just being quiet. Actually, she doesn’t want [to be involved in] politics,” he said.

Unconfirmed reports alleged that Ejercito benefitted from transactions with JLN Corp., which is owned by Napoles.

Estrada also defended Tantoco, describing her as a very close friend of his mother.

“She has nothing to do with this. I don’t know why her name is cropping up,” he said.

Estrada said that while he knows Ranillo from his days as an actor, he never transacted business with him involving pork barrel.

The senator said he was confident that his former secretary, Pauleen Labayen, who has also been named by the whistleblowers, would not turn against him.

Told that Tuason again went to the NBI office Wednesday, Estrada said they were reconciling the figures that would be cited when Tuason testifies today before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

“I think the hearing tomorrow is meant to depict us as demons, as villains again, as they did during the previous hearings... Tomorrow will just be a show, a zarzuela, “ aid Estrada.

Tuason and Labayen are among the more than 30 people charged with plunder or malversation before the Office of the Ombudsman over the pork barrel scandal.

The other respondents include Napoles, Estrada, Enrile and Senator Ramon Revilla Jr.

The Palace said it expects Tuason to tell the truth before the Blue Ribbon Committee today.

“We expect to hear nothing but the truth, and surely that is also what the public wants,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said.

“It is not only the government but even ordinary people who have a high interest in the outcome of this issue,” Coloma added.

Also on Wednesday, a Makati court denied an appeal by Napoles to post bail on an illegal detention case filed against her by Luy.

Presiding Judge Elmo Alameda of Makati City RTC, Branch 150 denied Napoles’ motion for reconsideration on his decision last November to deny her plea for bail.

The ruling means Napoles will continue to be detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Alameda said Napoles presented no new arguments in her motion for reconsideration.

The judge said it appeared that Luy had been deprived of his liberty by Napoles and her brother Jojo Lim, when he was kept in a religious retreat house, Bahay Ni San Jose in Magallanes, Makati City.

“Benhur [Luy] was under constant threat on his life and that of his family, especially his mother, Gertrudes, which Jojo Lim instilled in his mind, coupled with the fact that he was under relentless and unending surveillance by the security personnel posted by the accused to prevent him from escaping,” the judge said, in rejecting Napoles’ motion for reconsideration.

He also gave credence to Luy’s statement that he did not rush to the NBI team that freed him at first because he thought they were friendly with Napoles.

“At most, the arguments proffered by accused Napoles are self-serving and not supported by strong evidence of non-culpability and are therefore insufficient to alter the findings of the court,” the RTC judge ruled.

“As can be gleaned from the assailed order, the court found the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses plausible, spontaneous, convincing and consistent with human nature and the ordinary course of things,” he added. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Joyce Pangco Pañares



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