[PHOTO -PUNO: Malacañang remains silent on where President Benigno S. Aquino III’s controversial shooting buddy, Rico Puno, is headed following his reported exit as undersecretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).]

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 2, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Cecille Suerte Felipe & Aurea Calica - When the late Jesse Robredo was the secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the “interior” part of the job was effectively outside his full control.

Instead it was the turf of DILG Undersecretary for peace and order Rico Puno, a known gun enthusiast and shooting buddy of President Aquino.

With Manuel Roxas II taking over the DILG, the setup is being abolished. Puno has become the first casualty of a sweeping revamp now being implemented in the department.

As his new designation was confirmed by Malacañang yesterday, Roxas announced that Puno, who was in charge of the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, would no longer be with the DILG.

The President reportedly gave Roxas a free hand in reorganizing the DILG and putting in his own people.

[PHOTO -President Aquino greets new DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya during the formal announcement of their appointment at Malacañang yesterday. WILLY PEREZ]

Aquino has yet to announce a new position for Puno, which sources said yesterday may be in the Department of Agriculture.

Puno has been perceived as one of the President’s most trusted officials, a power bloc all by himself in the administration apart from the two factions – the “Balay” identified with Roxas, and the “Samar” group identified with Vice President Jejomar Binay and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

Publicly, officials have denied the existence of feuding factions within the Aquino administration.

Shortly after his appointment, Roxas acknowledged his having “big tsinelas (slippers)” to fill.

The tsinelas leadership that Roxas was talking about was Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras’ description of Robredo’s style of leadership – down-to-earth and one with the masses.

Roxas, former chief of the Department of Transportation and Communications, acknowledged the enormous task that lies ahead, including stamping out the illegal numbers game jueteng, the illegal drug trade, kidnapping and illegal logging.

He said that aside from the local government units, the local police were also in need of greater support and he would think of the best ways to address their problems.

Roxas said he and the President had a series of conversations over the past two weeks since Robredo’s death in a plane crash off Masbate on Aug. 18.

“At first he was just thinking out loud while we were in Masbate (for the search and rescue operations that later became retrieval for Robredo). When we found Jesse and we were on our way to Naga, the President became a bit more serious,” Roxas said.

“He told me we had to really think. And then he let it pass until after Jesse was buried. (On Thursday), he told me that that was it,” Roxas added.

He said he was thankful to the President for his trust, adding that the responsibilities of a DILG chief were “big, wide, delicate, sensitive and heavy.”

“More than this, I have big shoes, or big tsinelas, to fill. I am not Jesse Robredo. Compared to him, I am lacking in a lot of things. But you can be sure I will do everything I can, in all my abilities, to give respect to the legacy of Jesse. His memory will be my guide,” Roxas said.

“Transparency, accountability, people empowerment – the inclusion of ordinary people in the decisions of local governments and even the national government – the hallmarks of Secretary Jesse’s leadership. We will continue all of these,” he said.

Roxas also thanked Robredo’s wife, Maria Leonor, for the support and confidence she showed to him as new DILG chief.

Roxas said his decision to accept the DILG post should not be linked to his or the Liberal Party’s plans for the 2013 elections.

“I don’t give it much thought. I know I can only succeed, and I told this to the President, I will only be successful and I can only succeed whether at DOTC or now in DILG if all thoughts of 2016 or any other electoral position was removed from my mind. And that’s what I intend to do,” Roxas said. “It will be hard to make decisions if you have other things in mind.”

Most trusted

At Malacañang, Aquino said Roxas is the most qualified to continue the reforms initiated by Robredo.

He stressed that no one else would mirror the characteristics he was looking for in a DILG secretary but “our very own party president, Secretary Mar Roxas.”

“I appealed to him, explained to him why I was appointing him. Of course, Mar has also invested time in the DOTC, you also want to see the fruits of your labor… You’re the one who planted and by the time things were being reaped, (you’re not around),” Aquino said.

He said Roxas readily responded to his challenge to lead the DILG despite concerns that the move could divide the Cabinet, as some of its members were supportive of Binay, the current housing czar, who was being perceived as Roxas’ opponent in the 2016 presidential elections.

“Number one, they both share my trust… my complete trust. So that is very important… There are so many agencies in the government and there are so many opportunities… If you put the wrong person, he will take advantage of the position,” the President said, referring to Roxas and new DOTC chief Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya.

Aquino said he is confident Roxas and Abaya will not abuse their positions.

The President, during the briefing, did not hide his desire to have Roxas as his successor.

“What’s important is whoever is installed as chief, you train a successor, someone who will replace you,” Aquino said. “In a sense this will be a lesser occupation compared to preparing for the presidency itself if you were the vice president.”

Aquino said he was aware that the appointment of Roxas would draw criticism from various sectors.

“Besides the never-ending criticisms, Mar is very, very capable to handle this job and to continue – he will put in his own personal style – to really get local governments to be our allies in addressing the problems of the nation,” Aquino said.

“So common sense, if I put someone there who does not do his function, I only add burden to myself… So I appointed with full confidence that he can reduce the things I need to attend to on a daily basis. He will be of help in fixing our country,” he said.

“I suppose Secretary Roxas can demonstrate the primary function to advance the country’s interests rather than the party’s interests,” he added.

Show of support

The Philippine National Police (PNP) voiced its full support for Aquino’s appointment of Roxas to the DILG.

“We welcome Sec. Roxas as the new DILG chief. We will support him and we will work with him. We will cooperate to attain his goals and objectives in the department,” PNP chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome said.

“I urge the 148,000-strong men and women of the PNP to rally behind our new leader and patriarch in the DILG-PNP-Napolcom family.”

“Secretary Roxas brings with him a wealth of executive experience and professional competence to administer and manage the operations of the bureaus and attached agencies under the DILG, including the PNP,” Bartolome said.

In concurrent capacity as chairman of Napolcom, Roxas is in the best position to continue the reforms initiated by the late Robredo to promote a new culture of good governance, transparency, public accountability and people empowerment in the PNP, according to the PNP chief.

The military, for its part, said it is confident that its partnership with the police and the local governments will be strengthened further with Roxas at the helm of DILG.

“We expect the reinvigoration of our engagement with the PNP, which is under the DILG and the local governments,” Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said in an interview.

“We acknowledge the PNP and the LGUs (local government units) as integral partners in achieving the objective of our security plan – to achieve a just and lasting peace,” he added.

Burgos said they are also optimistic that the planned turnover of the lead role in internal security operations to local governments from the military would be hastened.

The military declares an area “insurgency free” if the strength of rebels within its jurisdiction is too small to influence its residents and their activities.

Once an area is declared as such, the lead role of maintaining peace and order is transferred to local officials from the armed forces.

Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat urged Roxas to “muster the will to continue the investigation started by Robredo on anomalies in the procurement process of the PNP, Bureau of Fire Protection and other offices and prosecute those guilty.”

With Roxas’ “political savvy and familiarity with many local officials,” Baguilat said he “would be in a good position to strengthen the full disclosure policy advocacy among local government units that was started by Secretary Robredo.”

“I’m also hoping though that Secretary Mar will consider the late secretary’s less glamorized advocacies like the mandatory representation of indigenous peoples in legislative councils, the access to justice project and resolving the in-city resettlement of informal settlers,” he said.

But he said Roxas “will have the unenviable burden of being compared with the late great secretary.”

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma also expressed confidence in Roxas’ sincerity and integrity as DILG chief.

“Of course Mar Roxas is a person who has been in the government for many years. We just pray once more that knowing the task ahead, he would give his best to continue the work done by Secretary Robredo and prove that like the Secretary, his basic interest is for the benefit of the people and not for any alternative motive,” Palma said. With Alexis Romero, Evelyn Macairan


DILG’s Roxas kicks out Puno, Jesse’s men Written by Fernan J. Angeles and Charlie V. Manalo Saturday, 01 September 2012 00:00

But Noynoy equivocal on giving Mar powers over PNP

Newly appointed Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas’ first marching order was to have DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno kicked out of his agency as well as his kicking out all of the DILG officers and staffers of the late Jesse Robredo who have been declared by Roxas as being co-terminus with the late DILG secretary.

President Aquino quickly told reporters that Puno will be given another position, although he failed to mention where he was transferring Puno who was earlier given the task by Aquino to take on the supervision of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

But even as Roxas claimed that he had been given that mandate to have full control of both sections of the DILG, which includes the PNP, Aquino was clearly equivocal in his answer
when Palace reporters directly asked the president if he will return to the new SILG (Secretary of Interior and local government) the position of his handling the PNP which was earlier relegated to Undersecretary Puno, Aquino failed to directly answer the reporter’s question.

Instead, Aquino said: “Actually Secretary Jesse Robredo had a big part in the PNP (supervision) especially now that the problems (in the PNP) have been fixed. You know the secretary has supervision of, and is responsible for, the BJMP, BFP.

"The BFP, for instance, was one of those (agencies) that Jesse was attending to, such as the fire trucks that, if I remember correctly, are on average 30 years old. So we were able to secure a grant, I believe from Austria where we will get substantially cheaper fire trucks with more capabilities. OK, so this would be upgraded. We still lack fire trucks, They are already old, and this was one of the priorities of (Robredo).

"That problem is continuously brought up—especially when someone breaks out of to help us, initially, Usec. Puno might have been the action man, but there were many decisions on the PNP made by me, including the hostage crisis. There, I was giving out the orders.

“We are a team and a team helps each other. Initially, the Palace and DILG Undersecretary Puno were seen coordinating and cooperating. But in most instances, it wasn’t Puno calling the shots but me — and that includes the Manila hostage crisis”

Aquino explained that the area of concerns of a DILG Secretary is already too wide even as he claimed that there is very little that needs to be done in the PNP citing Robredo’s policies and programs that saw the national police improve.

Despite the probable limited power given, Roxas does not seem to mind losing his grip over the PNP as he still wields what many presidential hopefuls want — control over a network of politicians capable of delivering votes.

The DILG Secretary has supervision over the country’s 80 provincial governors, 240 city mayors, 1,495 municipal mayors, roughly 42,000 barangay chairmen and all elected officials under them.

In what appeared to be an affair seen as limited and exclusively engaging Liberal Party members, two top government agencies saw the change in leadership as Aquino formally announced the appointment of his defeated 2010 vice presidential running-mate Roxas as DILG chief.

Also appointed by the President is LP Secretary General and Cavite Rep. Emilio “Jun” Abaya, who takes over the top post vacated by their party president (Roxas) at the Department of Transportation and Communications.

At the regular press briefing in Malacañang, the new Interior Secretary admitted to having lesser leadership qualities as compared to the late DILG chief Robredo, but spoke on delivering a long list of tough priorities issued to him Aquino as his new marching orders.

The list of “tough priorities” would engage Roxas against private armies. In dismantling armed contingents outside of what the Constitution deems legitimate and legal, the President gave Roxas a deadline, even as the chief executive said that he expects results before next year’s midterm elections.

In a statement farmed out to Palace reporters, Aquino wants his new Cabinet appointee at the DILG to seriously take on the unfinished investigations and cases against local government officials, but gave no particulars as to which investigations should be on top of the DILG concerns.

The President also directed Roxas to seek legal avenues in paving the way for the upgrade of the facilities of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

“BJMP facilities are in a sad state now that’s why it is easy for prisoners to escape,” Aquino’s statement said.

Asked how he intends to deliver results that the President wants him to take on, Roxas averred: “The responsibilities of the DILG are very big, very wide, and very sensitive.” “More than this, I have big shoes, big tsinelas (slippers) to fill. I am no Jesse Robredo”

Aquino appealed to the members of the powerful Commission on Appointments to confirm at the soonest possible time both Roxas and Abaya as Secretaries of DILG and DoTC respectively.

“They (new Cabinet appointees Roxas and Abaya) can’t sit in their respective posts until they are confirmed. While Congress is in session, we can’t make an ad interim appointment. And for this reason we ask the CA to act on these appointments immediately.”

On the DoTC portfolio, the President directed his new point-man Abaya to put into place measures designed for the prompt implementation of the administration’s priority infrastructure projects, with special mention on those which has something to do with tourism.

Aquino shrugged off speculations seen as pointing to the 2013 midterm elections as the factor behind the designation of two LP stalwarts in Cabinet positions deemed as “critical”.

“His primary function is to advance the country’s interest over the party’s interest. Political expediency connotes that he is not qualified and we are doing this as a favor to him,” added Aquino even as he claimed that even before names of personalities were pushed as good replacements of the late Secretary Robredo, he already had Roxas in mind.

The President added that he has full trust in both Roxas and the late Robredo.

Sought for comment over reports dragging his DILG appointment as an off-shhot of his 2016 presidential bid, Roxas shrugged off politics, even as he stressed the need for him to get 2016 out of his mind for him to be able to do what has to be done at the DILG.

“I can only succeed with all thoughts of 2016 out of my mind,” Roxas said.

Meanwhile, San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito yesterday said the appointment of Roxas as DILG chief exposes the agenda of the LP to ensure that powerful portfolios are given to its party mates.

“Not to undermine the capability of Secretary Mar Roxas and (Cavite) Rep. Emilio Abaya, but I think the appointment is obviously for the strengthening of the Liberal Party’s position in the coming 2013 and 2016 elections,” said Ejercito.

The San Juan lawmaker said this given the several options for a competent and potential DILG Secretary that is not limited to the members of the LP.

“The LP anyway does not have the monopoly of competent, honest, and incorruptible leaders that are fit for the position. There are also other allies of the President not necessarily from the LP namely Vice President Jejomar Binay, Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn, and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos who are all competent enough to be DILG Secretaries,” Ejercito stressed.

But considering the party’s political agenda, the San Juan solon said LP needs the hand of the DILG for its arm of organization composing of governors, mayors, and barangay officials all over the country.

“If (Aquino) truly considers a strong hand that will manage both the Philippine National Police and local government units (LGUs) with political will, Davao’s Rodrigo Duterte is the best choice. Even former PACC/PNP chief now Sen. Panfilo Lacson with whom I have a personal issue. I do believe he has the capability to create a positive image for the DILG and PNP,” said Ejercito.

Ejercito said this was the primary reason LP members have been urging the President to appoint someone from their party.
“An LP member positioned in such a key government position as the DILG is crucial for their party’s ambition for 2013 and 2016,” he said.

The other day, House Majority Leader, Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali “Boyet’ Gonzales, citing political expediency, stressed the need for an LP member to hold to the DILG post.

Meanwhile, a militant youth organization lambasted the appointment of Roxas to the DILG post saying it only validates “how hypocritical and unabashedly trapo the Aquino administration is.”

“Many demand the same brand of leadership DILG secretary Jesse Robredo was praised for — Aquino did the exact opposite by appointing a certified trapo. This is the worst possible tribute he could give Robredo,” Anakbayan national chair Vencer Crisostomo said.

“Roxas’ appointment smacks of patronage politics and will further strengthen the trapo ways of government, considering that elections are fast approaching,” the youth leader added.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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