Rico Puno, who resigned from his post as undersecretary at the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) about three months ago, is reportedly looking for a job at the Department of Agriculture (DA).
But presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Thursday that Puno’s job-hunting in the DA had no official sanction from Malacañang.
“That’s not accurate,” Lacierda said, when asked by phone if President Aquino was poised to return his erstwhile shooting range buddy to the government fold.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told the Inquirer by phone that Puno met with him twice earlier this month about a vacancy for an undersecretary in the DA.
Puno did not say that Aquino wanted him in the DA.
But Alcala said: “No problem, I can work with anyone. But it’s the President who appoints.”
Another Cabinet member told the Inquirer by phone that Puno had indeed approached Alcala.
“I heard [he is interested in the] DA,” said the Cabinet member, who was not authorized to talk about the issue.
Asked if Aquino had asked Alcala to find Puno a job, the Cabinet member said: “I don’t even know if P-Noy knows [about it].”
At the Palace briefing earlier Thursday, Lacierda was asked if it was true that Puno was looking for a job in the DA.
“There has been no discussion on that point, so we cannot make any comment on that,” Lacierda said.
“What we are waiting for is actually the next appointee to the position of chief presidential legal counsel. But with respect to Rico Puno, we have no official word on that, so I cannot confirm if he is going to be part of the DA. That’s as far as our information is [concerned],” Lacierda said.
Puno appeared to have voluntarily stepped down from his post in September, giving newly appointed Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas III a free hand to form his own team.
But the Inquirer later reported that an irregular rifle deal had triggered Puno’s fall from grace with Malacañang.
The Inquirer quoted an administration insider as saying that the President had personally asked Puno in July to resign because of the allegedly overpriced M4 rifles, a deal that the Philippine National Police insisted was above board.
According to the administration source, Puno’s resignation had nothing to do with his purported “raids” on the offices or the condominium unit of Jesse Robredo less than 24 hours after the plane carrying the secretary of the interior disappeared on August 18 off Masbate and an intense search for the aircraft was in progress.
The source stressed it was all about the gun deal that Aquino found overpriced when he searched Google on the Internet.
On the impending appointment of a new chief presidential legal counsel by January 2013, there is no official word whether or not lawyer Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa will get the post.
Caguioa was a classmate of Aquino at Ateneo de Manila University from grade school to college.
The lawyer is a senior partner of the Caguioa and Gatmaytan law firm, which specializes in litigation and arbitration, and is the son of the late Court of Appeals Justice Eduardo Caguioa.
“He is under consideration” was all Lacierda told reporters.