Palace confirms probes
But mum if Puno under investigationBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Malacañang confirmed on Friday that Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo was investigating sensitive matters before he died in a plane crash on Aug. 18, but 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 will eventually come out,” Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang told reporters in an interview at Ninoy Aquino International Airport before the departure of President Benigno Aquino III and his entourage for Vladivostok, Russia, to attend the 20th Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum.
On Aug. 20, as the government’ rescue and recovery operations for Robredo were going on, the Inquirer reported that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered “official and personal documents” in Robredo’s apartment and offices at the DILG and the National Police Commission (Napolcom) secured at the request of Robredo’s wife, lawyer Maria Lourdes “Leni” Robredo.
Members of the Presidential Security Group were deployed to guard his apartment and offices and stop anyone from going in.
Asked by reporters on Friday about the reported investigation of Puno, De Lima replied: “I don’t want to speculate. I have no jurisdiction over the Department of the Interior and Local Government. That’s out of my hand. There’s an interim caretaker and there’s an incoming secretary.”
The Inquirer repeatedly tried but failed to contact Puno for comment on Friday. He was not in his office at the DILG and he did not answer his cell phone.
“I will not comment on these investigations because many of them are in a very sensitive stage,” Carandang further said, when asked if the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) was investigating Puno.
He said Robredo initiated the investigations “on his own.”
Pressed if Puno was among the subjects of Robredo’s investigations, Carandang said: “I will not comment on that.”
ABS-CBN News reported on Thursday night that Puno, President Aquino’s gun range buddy, tried to get into the apartment of Robredo in Quezon City and his offices on Aug. 19, a day after a light plane carrying the DILG chief from Cebu to Naga City crashed in waters off Masbate City. Citing unnamed sources, ABS-CBN said Puno, accompanied by some police officers, tried to get into Robredo’s apartment to get the papers about an investigation involving him and some police officials.
ABS-CBN News reported that a certain Supt. Oliver Tanseco was able to enter the apartment while Puno and his other companions waited outside.
The network reported that Robredo’s lawyer barred Puno and policemen from searching the apartment, as they had no search warrant.
ABS-CBN News said Puno’s attempt made Mrs. Robredo to ask the government to secure her husband’s papers.
In a text message to the Inquirer on Friday, Mrs. Robredo confirmed that some people tried to enter her family’s apartment in Quezon City on the morning after her husband’s plane crashed in Masbate Pass.
But she said that she could not name who those people were as she was informed by the househelp about it only by phone. She said the helper told her that some people were trying to get in “to get Jesse’s papers.”
“I told our helper not to let them in,” Mrs. Robredo said.
She added that Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman was with her at the time and she would know about the incident.
She said Soliman helped her seek government assistance in securing her husband’s papers.
Mrs. Robredo said her house help did not know the people who tried to get some of her husband’s papers.
But a source who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue said the apartment building’s visitors’ log book listed the names of Puno, Police Supt. Oliver Tanseco, one Apollo Togonon and Police Senior Supt. Joel Pagdilao.
The source said the four had police escorts.
“Some people also tried to get inside the office of the secretary at the central office of the DILG on the 10th floor of the Francisco Gold Condominium II on Edsa in Diliman,” the source said.
The source said some people also tried to get into Robredo’s office at Napolcom headquarters on Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City.
“The people wanting to go inside the residence and offices of Jesse could have wanted to get papers that supposedly pertain to the anomalous purchase of firearms,” the source said.
Asked by reporters about it on Friday, De Lima said she was not in a position to confirm anything about Puno’s alleged attempt to get Robredo’s papers.
“It was just a simple request of Mrs. Robredo to secure whatever documents there are in the condominium but this report that someone went there, I’m not privy to that,” De Lima said. “I will ask about it.”
New DILG chief
On Aug. 31, Mr. Aquino announced the appointment of Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II as new secretary of the interior. But Roxas could not immediately take over at the DILG, as his nomination needed confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.
Until Roxas’ nomination is confirmed, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa is officer in charge of the DILG.
De Lima said the papers remained in Robredo’s Quezon City apartment.
“As far as I’m concerned, I was able to secure them,” she said. “I know the condominium’s policy that nobody will be allowed to get in. The doors would be locked if there are people inside. In case someone goes inside, I have my own way of determining if the documents were touched or not, because I secured them.”
No police probe yet
Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr., spokesperson for the Philippine National Police (PNP), said on Friday that the police had not yet received orders to investigate Puno’s reported attempt to get Robredo’s papers.
“We have only read about it in the newspapers,” Cerbo said. “If there’s going to be an order, then we won’t have a problem investigating it,” he said.
At the airport, Carandang declined comment when asked if De Lima’s order to secure Robredo’s papers was an offshoot of Puno’s reported attempt to get some of the papers.
“I’m not prepared to comment on that at this point,” he said.
Asked if the government had opened an investigation into Puno’s reported attempt to enter Robredo’s apartment and offices, Carandang said: “As I said, there were many investigations being conducted by the 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.” With reports from Philip C. Tubeza and Jerome Aning in Manila; and Jonas Cabiles Soltes, Inquirer Southern Luzon
First posted 12:43 am | Saturday, September 8th, 2012