Leni Robredo won’t be at Senate inquiry: Let me grieveBy Cathy Yamsuan, Jonas Cabiles Soltes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Pleading she wants to grieve in peace, the widow of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo has declined an invitation to appear in a Senate inquiry on Friday on Undersecretary Rico Puno’s alleged shenanigans.
Leni Robredo also denied an ABS-CBN news report that she had told the network’s interviewer that Puno was under investigation by her husband before the secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) died in a plane crash on August 18 off Masbate.
“I did not say in any interview that Puno was being investigated by Jesse. What I said was Jesse told me a lot of things,” she told a Philippine Daily Inquirer reporter on Tuesday in Naga City.
“Whatever was work-related, I passed them on to the people who can work on them. I told them I did not want to have anything to do with his work because we want to grieve in peace in the meantime,” said the widow, who was battling tonsillitis.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Tuesday that she had received word from Robredo’s former aide in the DILG, Domnina T. Rances, that the widow would be unable to attend the Senate hearing on Friday.
It was also unclear if Santiago, chairperson of the Senate committee on revision of codes and rules which is conducting the inquiry, would get from Leni Robredo the personal papers that the widow had instructed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to secure for her from the Robredo condominium unit two days after the plane crash.
De Lima told reporters on Monday that she gave Leni Robredo the documents sealed in an envelope the following day. She also said that Puno was in the Robredo apartment hours before she went there but that she understood that the maid did not allow Puno to enter the premises on instructions from the widow.
Santiago said it was unfortunate that Leni Robredo could not make it to the Senate hearing.
“There could have been a lot of factual details Mrs. Robredo can provide which we are left with no clue except those which might be elicited from resource persons,” she said. What is definite, Santiago said, is that Puno “can no longer hide certain facts because Mrs. Robredo would have these in her possession.”
Earlier reports said Robredo had written reports about the alleged involvement of government officials in illegal activities, including smuggling, jueteng and unauthorized logging.
Santiago said Puno’s personal interest in the papers was “the only conclusion you can reach.”
“The only conclusion is that inside the house was something that he could not trust to his people. That means he wanted something personally, isn’t that so,” Santiago asked.
Questions for the widow
In Leni Robredo’s absence, the senator said her committee would still determine if the widow could present “for examination” the documents retrieved from the apartment.
“If the answer is still negative, I’m not going to issue a subpoena to her out of courtesy for the immense grief that surrounds her at this time. We’ll just try to acquire this information from other sources,” Santiago said in an ambush interview.
Had the widow agreed to attend the hearing, Santiago said she would have asked her:
- About the working relationship between Robredo and Puno.
- Her reaction to the undersecretary’s failure to “observe etiquette” by asking her permission to enter their condo unit “instead (of) barging in there and shocking the maid out of her wits.”
- Why Leni Robredo declined to give permission to “no less than” the undersecretary of her husband to try and secure documents.
Jueteng, DILG setup
Santiago said she would challenge Puno to give concrete evidence that he had eradicated jueteng two years after she delivered an exposé where Puno was named as a protector of the illegal numbers racket.
“Even if the police would say ‘we have trimmed their activities little by little … still, how much time do you really need to (eliminate jueteng),” she asked.
The senator said she would ask Puno to explain the “irregular” setup in the DILG under Robredo where the undersecretary was given exclusive supervision over the Philippine National Police. The Constitution names the DILG secretary as ex-officio chairman of the Napolcom, a situation that gives him control and supervision over the PNP.
Santiago said Puno’s exclusive jurisdiction over the PNP violates the Administrative Code.
The senator gave a hearty laugh after she was told Puno had resigned.
“That’s history. He had no choice so we don’t even feel relieved about it. We don’t even have to admire what he did because … he should have done it earlier and he would have gained brownie points from the public,” she said.