Palace spokeswoman can’t confirm Puno was ordered to secure Robredo’s documentsBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang on Saturday could not confirm that President Benigno Aquino indeed ordered Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno to secure Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo’s apartment and offices hours after his plane crashed in the waters off Masbate City on August 18.
Superintendent Oliver Tanseco, one of the police officers who accompanied Puno when he reportedly tried to get into Robredo’s apartment, said Aquino ordered Puno to “lock down” Robredo’s apartment and offices on the night of August 18 following the crash.
“I don’t have that information,” Abigail Valte, one of the President’s spokespersons, said in a text message when asked to confirm Tanseco’s statement. “I know that the order was given to secure the offices only.”
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had ordered that documents in Robredo’s condominium unit in Quezon City as well as his office be secured at the request of Robredo’s wife, lawyer Maria Elena “Leni” Robredo, on August 20 and 21.
“I have no personal knowledge of that,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, senior political adviser to the President, said when sought for confirmation of Tanseco’s statement.
De Lima did not return calls.
Malacañang declined comment on an ABS-CBN News report that Puno, Aquino’s shooting range buddy, tried to get into Robredo’s apartment and offices at the Department of Interior and Local Government, and the National Police Commission to get papers about an investigation involving him and police officials.
Strategic Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang last Friday confirmed that Robredo was investigating sensitive matters at the time of his death, but he declined to say if the investigation involved Puno.
Tanseco said that on the night of August 18 the President called Puno when the latter arrived at the White House in Camp Crame, the quarters of the national police chief that served as a command post for the search for Robredo, and issued the order.
In compliance with the President’s order “to lock down all the offices and personal belongings” of the missing interior secretary, Puno and police officers went to Robredo’s apartment and office the next day to relay the order, Tanseco said.
A Malacañang official, who asked not to be identified by name because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, said Tanseco’s statement did not seem to jibe with De Lima’s order to secure Robredo’s documents.
The official wondered why De Lima would have Robredo’s documents secured if Puno’s team had been ordered earlier to secure them. The official said De Lima’s order was prompted by a request from Leni Robredo, who had been alerted by the household help that some people wanted to get into the apartment.
“Someone’s lying,” the official said.
Another Malacañang official, who also asked not to be named, said Tanseco’s claim that Puno had gone to Robredo’s apartment on the President’s order was more plausible.
“He won’t do that without an order from the President. Why would he log his name?” the official said, expressing doubt that Puno would do things that would destroy his relationship with the President. “He’s very trusted by the President. They go a long way.”
As to why Puno has chosen to keep quiet, he said: “He’s secure in the trust of the President.”
Aquino has appointed Manuel Roxas II as the new interior secretary. But until his nomination is confirmed by the Commission on Appointments, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa is officer in charge of the Department of Interior and Local Government.