MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - A former aide of ex-president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada has returned to the Philippines after being slapped with plunder charges over the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
Ruby Tuason arrived in Manila at around 3:40 a.m. on board PAL flight PR 105 from San Francisco.
An ABS-CBN News source said Tuason has offered to turn state witness. This was confirmed by her lawyer, Dennis Manalo, on ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda (UKG) on Friday.
DZMM's Dennis Datu said NBI agents reportedly picked her up from San Francisco, and an NBI special task force secured her from NAIA Terminal 2 to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
According to Manalo, Tuason is now provisionally under the DOJ's Witness Protection Program.
"Base po sa utos ng aking kliyente, kinukumpirma ko po na sya ay gumawa ng sinumpang salaysay at siya po ay sumagot sa mga katanungan ng NBI tungkol sa ongoing investigation ng DOJ regarding the PDAF and Malampaya scams," Manalo said on UKG.
"Dahil po dito sa sworn statement na ito, si Mrs. Ruby Tuason po ay nasa Witness Protection Program ng DOJ at siya po ay handang magtestigo sa mga kaso na ito sa anumang opisina o husgado na didinig sa mga kasong ito.
"Siya po ay biningyan siya ng provisional admission to the Witness Protection Program, ibig sabihin maaari siyang bigyan ng seguridad ng ahensya ng DOJ, at siya po ay pansamantalang mabibigyan ng immunity, subject to the approval or confirmation of the Office of the Ombudsman na siyang dumidinig sa mga cases na ito."
Manalo said Tuason was not coerced into turning state witness and was not offered any financial incentive or favor in exchange for her testimony.
"Nais pong ipagbigay alam ni Mrs. Ruby Tuason na sya po ay kusang loob na humarap upang linisan ang kanyang konsensya. Alam nya po ng buong-buo ang maaring maging sakuna sa kanyang buhay at reputasyon dahil po sa kanyang nagawa na ito," he said.
"Sinisiguro po niya sa sambayanang Pilipino at sa lahat ng ahensya ng gobyerno na may interes sa kasong ito na walang siyang tinanggap na anumang kabayaran na pinansyal o anumang pabor sa kahit sino man para dito sa testimonya na ito, liban lamang sa mga nasasaad sa batas tungkol sa Witness Protection Program."
The Bureau of Immigration earlier said Tuason left the country on August 26, just two days before alleged scam mastermind Janet Napoles surrendered to President Aquino.
A former social secretary of Estrada, Tuason has been linked to both the P10 billion pork barrel scam of Napoles and the Malampaya fund scam.
She was charged with plunder along with former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, former Budget Secretary Rolando, and several others for allegedly pocketing the funds obtained as royalties from the natural gas project off the seas of Palawan.
The complaint said Tuason pocketed P242.775 million in kickbacks "received through bank withdrawals for a still unidentified principal."
Mrs. Arroyo has denied that she is the unidentified principal of Tuason, whose late husband is a cousin of Mike Arroyo.
Whistle-blowers have also identified Tuason as the one who allegedly received kickbacks for Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.
One whistle-blower, former JLN Corporation finance clerk Marina Sula, told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, that she brought a bag of money to Tuason's house in 2011.
An Anti-Money Laundering Council investigation also revealed that P20 million in credit memo transactions was entered to Tuason's Union Bank of the Philippines account in 2008. This was supposedly rebates from the pork barrel funds funneled by Senator Enrile to Napoles' foundations.
An ABS-CBN report earlier revealed that the Tuason family has 2 real estate properties in the US.
One is a townhouse unit at the Las Vegas Country Club, which is a private golf course community located just a few feet away from the former Las Vegas Hilton.
Tuason bought the unit in November 2008 in cash for $147,000 -- or over P6.3 million.
Fast forward to September 2013, the deed of title was transferred to Francis Tuason, who is Ruby's son with the late Butch Tuason of the Philippine Sports Commission.
Documents state that the mailing address used to buy the townhouse unit at the Las Vegas Country Club is that of another home registered under Henry Joseph Chan Laygo, who is a son of Ruby from her first husband.
Both properties are in guard-gated communities.