Lawmakers press for canceled House probe on PunoBy Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Why let the President’s friend, Rico E. Puno, so easily off the hook?
Lawmakers criticized on Sunday the decision to halt a planned House probe on the P1-billion firearms deal for the Philippine National Police and the role in the purchase of resigned Undersecretary Puno of the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Zambales Representative Ma. Milagros Magsaysay, a member of the minority, said the cancellation of the hearing was a blow against transparency and was meant to make the issue against Puno die down.
“They want to nip the issue in the bud by ordering allies to bury it and hopefully it won’t stick in the people’s mind,” Magsaysay said.
“Daang matuwid (the straight path) is a myth,” she said, referring to the President’s oft-repeated catchphrase.
“The stoppage of the Congress hearings is a clear sign that this administration doesn’t want the truth to come out and [wants to] to protect the alleged shenanigans happening. The people have been misled into believing that this administration is for transparency and accountability,” she said.
But even members of the House majority think the hearings must go on.
Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. of the Liberal Party said the investigation should continue and delve deeper into the issues involving the PNP transactions to show that people close to the President have not been treated with kid gloves.
“To ensure that there’s no iota of doubt about the impartiality of the administration on a perceived PNoy friend, the probe must go on until the issues are thoroughly discussed,” Baguilat said. Corruption allegations must not be taken lightly, he said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño said one Senate hearing was not enough to put closure to the issues, especially since those who have spoken about it in the inquiry were all involved in the deal.
Other experts who played no part in the firearms transaction, such as the Commission on Audit and the Government Procurement Policy Board, must be consulted as well about the explanations offered by the officials involved in the bidding process, Casino said.
The House probe, earlier requested by Agham party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones and Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop, was supposed to center on the alleged irregularities in the PNP’s arms purchases.
Puno was to be invited by the House committee on public order and safety.
But following the Senate probe, where Puno brushed off allegations against him regarding the alleged anomalous firearms procurement and the illegal numbers game jueteng, the House lawmakers said there was no reason to duplicate the Senate inquiry.
The PNP’s Bids and Awards Committee chairman Emelito Sarmiento on Thursday also met with Palmones and cleared Puno of allegations that he influenced decisions of the procurement committee, especially in connection with the Glock pistol deal.
It was another planned firearms purchase that did Puno in, according to a Philippine Daily Inquirer source. The source earlier said the planned procurement of M4 rifles, which the President found to be overpriced, prompted Aquino to ask Puno to step down as early as July. The contract for the assault rifles is to undergo rebidding.
Tags: Benigno Aquino III , Congress , congressional inquiry , congressmen , Department of Interior and Local governments , Firearms , House of Representatives , Philippines , Police , Politics , Presidency , Rico E. Puno , Senate , Teddy Casiño , Teodoro Baguilat Jr.