Bishops urge Aquino not to give Rico Puno another gov’t postBy Jocelyn R. Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines–Some Catholic bishops on Wednesday said it was not a good idea for President Benigno Aquino III to give his controversial friend Rico E. Puno another post in the government considering the latter’s apparent incompetence and supposed involvement in shady deals.
Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz said if the President gave Puno another assignment in the government despite his notorious track record, it would only affirm the so-called “KKK,” or “kaibigan, kaklase at kabarilan” (friend, classmate, shooting buddy) of the Aquino administration.
“His competence and management skills have been all along disproved. If he will be given another assignment, that’s an affirmation of the KKK,” Cruz told reporters in an interview Wednesday.
“I hope he would not be anymore assigned to any office to somehow lessen the bad perception of the KKK, which is not doing the President any good precisely because the members of the KKK are not admirable people,” he noted.
The prelate also said that if Puno remained in public service despite the controversies hounding him, it was just meant to keep him with the administration. “Wherever they assign him, he will not be that welcome precisely because it’s some kind of a second choice,” he pointed out.
In a phone interview, Marbel Bishop Dinauldo Gutierrez also agreed that Puno should no longer have a place in the government because of his “incompetence.”
While welcoming Puno’s decision to resign as an undersecretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government, Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said he must still face the Senate inquiry for his supposed mischief.
“I agree with Sen. Miriam Santiago that he must still be investigated by the Senate for many alleged acts of corruption and shady deals and lack of transparency and President Aquino should no longer give him another post,” said Bastes.
He added: “The President should not spare his kaibigan (friend) and kabarilan (shooting buddy) and must follow the ‘matuwid na daan’ (straight path).”
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has summoned Puno to appear before a Senate inquiry over his alleged shenanigans, which included his “raids” on the offices and condominium of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, and his supposed involvement in the illegal numbers game, “jueteng.”
In September 2010, Cruz, head of the Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Jueteng, named Puno as one of the protectors of the illegal numbers racket, receiving monthly grease money from gambling lords.
Cruz on Wednesday said he already received an invitation from the Senate and that he would be attending on Friday to share “my perspective about this Rico Puno and jueteng.”
But Cruz said he would no longer give any new information and new names, reiterating that he already disclosed everything in the previous inquiries.
Cruz said he was already expecting Puno to deny his involvement in the illegal numbers racket, saying it was easy for the undersecretary to do so in the absence of concrete evidence.
“It’s okay with me [if he denied it] because strictly speaking, you can only prove jueteng payola if you have the money in front of you because there’s no receipt. How do you prove that? Unless somebody spills the beans,” said the retired archbishop.
“But on the ground, the people know. Ask the garbage collectors, the plumbers, ice-cream vendors, they know. It’s only the police who don’t know anything,” he added.