Palace mum on whether Puno under investigationBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang on Friday confirmed that Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo was investigating sensitive matters before he died in a plane crash on August 18.
But Palace officials declined to say if the investigation involved Interior Undersecretary Ricardo Puno.
“What I can confirm is that, before his death, Secretary Robredo was conducting a number of very sensitive investigations. But I will not comment on the specifics of what was being investigated or who. I think that will eventually come out,” said Secretary Ricky Carandang of the Palace communication group in an interview at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport before President Benigno Aquino and his entourage left for Vladivostok, Russia to attend the 20th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
“I will not comment on these investigations because many of them are in a very sensitive stage,” Carandang said when asked if the Department of the Interior and Local Government was investigating Puno.
He said Robredo initiated the investigations “on his own.”
Pressed if Puno was among the subject of Robredo’s investigations, Carandang said: “I will not comment on that.”
Puno, Aquino’s shooting buddy, reportedly tried to get into Robredo’s condominium unit and his office at the DILG in the morning of August 19, a day after the light plane flying Robredo from Cebu to Naga City crashed in the waters off Masbate City. Robredo’s body was recovered on August 21, and those of the pilot and a Nepalese student pilot on August 22 and August 23, respectively.
As the government mounted search and rescue operations, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima secured “official and personal documents” in Robredo’s condominium unit on August 20 and 21 at the request of Robredo’s wife, lawyer Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo.
Members of the Presidential Security Group were deployed to keep an eye on Robredo’s offices and stop anyone from getting in.
At the time, Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson, said De Lima’s move to secure documents inside Robredo’s condominium unit was part of standard operating procedure. She said it should not be a surprise that the office of every Cabinet Secretary houses confidential documents.
Valte then said that Malacañang wasn’t entertaining the idea that Robredo’s killing in a plane crash could be part of a foul play.
“Those are exactly what you call them–speculations. Can we remind everybody that all our Cabinet members handle sensitive information?’’ she said.
Carandang declined to say if De Lima’s move to secure the documents in Robredo’s property and office was an offshoot of Puno’s reported attempt to get into these.
“I’m not prepared to comment on that at this point,’’ he said.
Asked if the Executive Branch has opened an internal investigation into Puno’s reported attempt to enter Robredo’s unit and offices, Carandang said: “As I said, there were many investigations being conducted by DILG at the time of Secretary Robredo’s death and I’m not in a position to comment on the specifics of any of those investigations.’’
On Friday last week, Aquino announced the appointment of Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II as new Interior Secretary, and Cavite Representative Joseph Abaya as Roxas’ replacement at the Department of Transportation and Communication.
Both, however, could not assume their posts until confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.
Aquino had designated Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. as officer in charge of the Department of Interior and Local Government after Robredo’s death.
Roxas was among the officials who sent off the President at Naia 2. Aquino declined to be interviewed.