More questions raised on Robredo office lockdownBy Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Something doesn’t add up, according to Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
Why would the widow of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo ask Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to secure her husband’s papers a day after his plane crashed when she could have requested his undersecretary, Rico Puno, to do this?
And why would President Benigno Aquino now announce he had ordered Puno to lock down Robredo’s offices after news came out that Puno tried to force his way into the offices, and his condominium apartment as well, on several occasions after the plane crash on August 18?
Santiago raised these questions in a radio interview Sunday in the aftermath of reports that Puno, with several police escorts, tried to enter his late boss’s offices in the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), National Police Commission (Napolcom) and Philippine National Police headquarters at Camp Crame and later, the condominium unit owned by the Robredo couple.
“You don’t need to be a genius to figure this out. Why would the widow ask for help when the President had already instructed someone to secure the papers? The widow didn’t even want (Puno to enter their condo unit),” Santiago noted.
“If (the widow) didn’t ask for Puno’s assistance, that means she doesn’t trust him. This doesn’t have to be so complicated,” she said. “If (the lockdown) was an order from the President, she should not have objected. So it’s (possible) she did not trust this person.”
Leni Robredo “knows something,” Santiago said. The senator said she planned to invite her to this week’s hearing of the Senate committee on revision of codes and laws, which she heads.
Given that couples tended to share details about their work, Santiago said she would not be surprised if the widow, a lawyer, was privy to “secrets” connected with her husband’s work.
Santiago stressed that the widow “would not be subpoenaed” but merely “invited” to the hearing.
Mr. Aquino, who attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Vladivostok, told reporters on Saturday that he ordered the lockdown on the offices, but not the apartment, and that Puno, his shooting-range buddy, might have misinterpreted his directive.
In an interview Sunday over state-owned Radyo ng Bayan, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte repeated the President’s position on his directive to Puno. “The order given to him was to seal the offices, which means that the condo was not included. We were very emphatic with that,” Valte said.
Earlier reports said some of the papers in Robredo’s offices detailed the alleged involvement of DILG officials in illegal activities, such as “jueteng” (an illegal numbers racket), illegal logging and irregularities in the purchase of firearms for the PNP.
Santiago reiterated earlier observations about the anomalous working arrangement within the DILG, in which Robredo’s work was limited to the local governments while Puno was given supervision over the police. The senator said the arrangement was “irregular.”
Under the law, the DILG secretary as ex-officio chairman of the Napolcom has “control and supervision” over the PNP,
Questions for Puno
Santiago said she would call Puno to a hearing this week to answer the following questions:
- Can an undersecretary possess an exclusive “area of responsibility” (in this case, the PNP) that bars his superior from looking into?
- What was Puno’s previous crime-fighting record that convinced President Aquino to give him such authority? She said Puno did not have an “outstanding achievement” to merit his post.
- Why did Puno recently fly to Israel purportedly to inspect a gun factory that would supply the guns to the PNP when he could have used the Internet “to research” details about its products?
All about corruption?
Media reports said that Puno, accompanied by other members of the PNP bids and awards committee, went to Israel to “inspect” the Espinelli gun factory.
“The problem is corruption,” Santiago said. “There are instances when the company that gives the lowest bid or the best product does not win. Sometimes, the company that gives the highest commission (to the bidding committee) becomes the successful bidder,” she said.
“This could involve an orgy of wining and drinking and possibly, even women. Naturally, the company that made a bid wants to (get the project) so it does everything to get into the good graces of the government representative.”
Santiago said more than Puno’s supposed closeness to Mr. Aquino, she strongly suspected that a “backer” with irresistible influence on the President was behind the undersecretary. She declined to name Puno’s patron.
“Mr. Puno’s backer is only interested in control over the PNP because the PNP, as protector, can also defend criminals as a result of corruption, like jueteng links,” she explained.
Puno first drew brickbats for the PNP’s failure to rescue Chinese tourists held hostage aboard a bus at Rizal Park by dismissed Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza. Eight tourists were killed. Mendoza was also shot dead during the incident on Aug. 23, 2010. With a report from Michael Lim Ubac