Aquino accepts Puno resignationBy Maila Ager
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III has accepted Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno’s resignation effective immediately, a Palace aide said on Tuesday.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Puno tendered his resignation letter to the President through Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa last Friday.
“The President has accepted Mr. Puno’s resignation effective immediately,” Lacierda said in a statement.
But Lacieda, in a press briefing, said Aquino’s acceptance of the resignation did not mean that the President has lost his trust and confidence in his longtime friend.
“ It doesn’t follow. It doesn’t follow…This is a course of action that he decided to do,” said the spokesman.
Lacierda could not say if the President has promised another position for Puno.
He said there was also no discussion yet as to who would replace the resigned official although the President while he was in Russia had mentioned the name of Police chief Nicanor Bartolome as possible replacement of Puno.
“We don’t know yet who’s going to be the undersecretary. Remember Secretary Mar Roxas will be the incoming DILG Secretary so he will form his own team and we don’t know who will replace Secretary Puno,” he added.
Puno’s resignation, Lacierda said, was also proof that Aquino’s alleged cronies dubbed as “KKK” (kaibigan-kaklase-kabarilan) was not true.
“It clears the air that there’s KKK [untouchables] , that’s not true,” he said in a press briefing.
“So this is a development that certainly would put to rest all these accusations of the fact that Undersecretary Puno is close to the President and he’s being coddled and that’s not true,” he said.
Lacierda said Puno’s act was commendable because he resigned “on his own accord.”
In his statement, Puno provided a timeline on how he secured Robredo’s offices and condominium unit on President Aquino’s instructions. He said he ordered personnel to log names at condo to document their presence.
Puno’s resignation came following calls for him to quit his post after being embroiled in controversies.
The official found himself in the spotlight after he allegedly tried to obtain certain documents from the office and house in Quezon City of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, who died in a plane crash last August 18.
Robredo’s widow, lawyer Leni Robredo has said in television interviews that her husband has confided in her information he had gathered about Puno, which would be worth probing. Mrs. Robredo declined to detail what she knew due to the sensitive nature of the investigation that Robredo had wanted to do.
Puno is said to be under investigation by Robredo for his purported involvement in the alleged overpriced purchase of service pistols for the Philippine National Police.
At the Senate, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has called for an investigation of Puno, including the circumstances behind his appointment. She said Puno had the “unique, if not anomalous” authority to control the PNP during the incumbency of Robredo.
Santiago said she would like to “unmask” the influential person or group that exerted “severe pressure” on the President to appoint Puno as undersecretary and give him powers over the PNP that, according to her, were reserved only for the department secretary. With a report from Norman Bordadora