[PHOTO taken in September 2011 shows DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and Undersecretary Rico Puno attending a Senate hearing. Left photo shows the Lansbergh Place condominium building where Puno allegedly tried to enter Robredo’s penthouse unit.]

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 10, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Marvin Sy - President Aquino admitted yesterday that he instructed Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico Puno to secure the condominium unit of his boss, Jesse Robredo.

“That was the extent of the order I gave him,” he said.

He said there are only two undersecretaries and the most logical government official was Puno because he was handling the Philippine National Police.

He said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima informed him that there were confidential papers in Robredo’s office.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago is calling for an inquiry into allegations of the involvement of Puno in anomalous activities, including his attempt to enter the Quezon City condominium unit of Robredo. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago is calling for an inquiry into allegations of the involvement of Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico Puno in anomalous activities, including his attempt to enter the Quezon City condominium unit of his boss Jesse Robredo a day after the latter was declared missing in a plane crash.

“There are so many issues hovering over the head of this man. We know that he used to be or is a colleague of the President in pursuing target shooting hobbies. There is nothing wrong with that, but I question whether he is qualified to sit as an undersecretary,” Santiago said in a press briefing at the Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology in Manila yesterday.

“Why was this special arrangement taken for the case of Mr. Puno? I believe that Mr. Puno was able to occupy this unique office of the undersecretary with these unique, exceptional or anomalous powers because of severe pressure exerted on President Aquino,” Santiago said.

“This man has extraordinary powers and influence. So I question who is the backer of Mr. Rico Puno that led to his dividing the powers of a Secretary,” she said, referring to Puno’s taking over jurisdiction of the Philippine National Police (PNP), which is normally the responsibility of the DILG secretary. Robredo’s job as DILG chief was confined to local government.

Santiago said she would file a resolution tomorrow calling for an investigation and that she would personally talk to the chairman of the concerned committee to facilitate the holding of the hearings.

She said the Aquino administration’s decision to split the DILG and give Puno control over the PNP was suspicious, especially in the light of reports of his alleged involvement in criminal activities including illegal arms supply and the illegal numbers game or jueteng, among others.

Santiago said the issues raised against Puno have cast doubts on his credibility to exercise control over the PNP.

Controversies have hounded Puno since his appointment by President Aquino in July 2010.

Puno first made the headlines when he admitted to have entertained emissaries from jueteng lords a few days after his appointment.

He again found himself in the middle of a controversy after the bloody hostage-taking crisis at the Luneta grandstand on Aug. 23, 2010. Eight Hong Kong tourists were killed and several others wounded after a botched rescue operation.

The tragedy forced the administration to make public Aquino’s “special instruction” that Robredo’s power was limited to the local government while Puno was in charge of the PNP.

‘Conspiracy of silence’

Santiago also said Malacañang’s silence on the issue was puzzling, considering its much touted commitment to transparency and reforms.

“I thought this was a government of transparency, if so let the Senate investigate Mr. Puno and answer my questions about jueteng,” Santiago said.

President Aquino is in Vladivostok, Russia for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit. He is expected to return to Manila today.

“This is all puzzling to me and why will Malacañang itself clam up in the face of the clamor from the media, reflecting the clamor of the public, for some rays of sunshine. Let the rays of the sun shine into this very murky issue,” she added.

The attempt of Puno and some police officers to enter Robredo’s condominium unit without informing the latter’s wife Leni was “very, very suspicious,” Santiago said.

Puno’s group was barred from entering the unit by Robredo’s househelp, who alerted Leni of the undersecretary’s attempt to get inside, allegedly to retrieve some documents.

Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman was with Leni when the latter received the call from her househelp. Upon learning of the attempt to enter, Leni said she called Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to seek her assistance in securing the premises.

“As a courtesy he should have called up the widow and asked (for permission) to go in. That is very, very suspicious. Why was he there? What was he looking for?” Santiago said.

She said newly appointed DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas II should be given a free hand in choosing his officials.

“I know from prior experience, long experience with Sen. Roxas in the Senate, that this man is honest. Say what you will about his abilities or his competence about the presidency, but I know and I vouch for the fact that Mr. Roxas is honest. He should not be forced to inherit someone else who is now facing a lot of questions from the public,” Santiago said.

Roxas had announced that Puno would be given another position and that the President had given him a free hand to bring in his own people to the DILG.

However, Roxas has not yet assumed his post at the DILG, pending confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.

Santiago said the “sinister conspiracy of silence” over Puno’s case must end now, “both on the part of the Palace minions and Mr. Puno himself.”

“It is an indication of infighting among the Malacañang factions. I’ve been around long enough to know that in complicated issues such as this, there are conflicts over there. They are both fighting for the ear of the President. The President is never free of the bulong brigades of Malacañang,” Santiago said.

“I want to unmask this person even if I have to be hospitalized because I have been sick for a long time, as soon as the hearing is started. (This is) someone powerful and influential,” she added.

Based on the security logbook of 20 Lansbergh Place, Puno was with Supt. Oliver Tanseco Jr., Sr. Supt. Joel Pagdilao and a certain Apollo Reuben Toganon when he tried to enter Robredo’s condo unit.

Former Isabela governor Grace Padaca also called on the government to investigate Puno’s action, saying “the matter is crying for an explanation, at the very least, and an investigation.”

“If Usec. Puno was open to interviews and answering questions, then it would have been cleared,” Padaca told ANC’s “Dateline Philippines” yesterday.

“To tell you the truth, I learned that somebody wanted to gain entry to his office after the plane crash,” an ABS-CBN news report quoted Padaca as saying. She said her sources did not say if Puno was part of the group.

Robredo was believed to be investigating jueteng and an anomalous arms deal before his death. Confidential documents on the investigation were reportedly kept inside Robredo’s condo.

Padaca also blasted Tanseco’s claim that they were acting on President Aquino’s orders when they tried to gain access to Robredo’s condo unit and offices, purportedly to “secure” them.

She said people she knew who had prior knowledge of Puno’s move appeared nervous about carrying out the plan.

“If there’s indeed an order from the President, then they should have shown confidence that everything was okay. But why the concern?” she said.

She said she did not tell her colleagues in the Kaya Natin! Movement about the revelation because everyone then was preoccupied with searching for Robredo. Robredo’s body was eventually found on Aug. 21, or three days after the crash.

“I don’t think it will be a question if we want a probe on that, for all of the things that Sec. Jesse stood for,” she said when asked if the new DILG leadership should investigate Puno’s alleged involvement in an anomalous arms contract.

A DILG investigation report on the weapons deal acquired by ABS-CBN News shows that it was received by Robredo on Aug. 8, less than two weeks before the Masbate plane crash. The report allegedly linked Puno to the anomalous arms contract. – With Aurea Calica


[PHOTO -The Philippine media pictures Puno as a bonafide member of the KKK (Kaklase, Kaibigan, Kabarilan) of President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino. Specifically, he is a shooting buddy of the PNoy who is allegedly infatuated with guns. And probably because of this love affair with guns, PNoy saw something in Puno who was president of Far East Ballistics Corporation from 1992 to 1995, where “he implemented polices for improvement and development in the production of ammunition.” (Puno was also board member of the National Range Officers Institute at Philippine Practical Shooting Association, and was involved in the staging of shooting competitions in the country and abroad). These may be the “sterling” credentials that led PNoy who was then a Senator to utilize Puno as an adviser in the upper chamber’s Committee on Public Order and Safety and Dangerous Drugs and Special Oversight on Economic Affairs body. During the 2007 senatorial campaign, Puno also served as PNoy’s “overall ground campaign commander” SOURCE: WORDPRESS BLOG WATCH]

[PHOTO -Later that same year when Pnoy’s administration was still on diapers, Puno was among the personalities who were allegedly receiving monthly payoffs amounting to millions from the 30 Billion Peso jueteng syndicate. The accusations came from retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Bishop Cruz who has been the untiring nemesis of the illegal numbers game revealed 12 names as jueteng lords, operators and recipients of jueteng payola during the Senate joint panel inquiry on the illegal numbers game.

The 12 are:

1. Governor Baby Pineda in Pampanga 2. Paul Dy in Isabela 3. Retired general Eugene Martin 4. Mayor Mauricio Domogan of Baguio 5. Danny Soriano in Cagayan 6. Retired General Padilla in Pasay, Parañaque, Muntinlupa and San Pedro 7. Governor Amado Espino in Pangasinan 8. Boy Jalandoni in Bacolod 9. Eddie Fontanilla 10. Rey Cachuela 11. Undersecretary Rico Puno 12. Retired General Jesus Versoza

Naturally, Puno has denied the allegations, but admitted that some jueteng operators had tried to approach him in the past. He even vowed to tender his resignation once Pnoy returns from his official US visit. During a Senate inquiry, Puno even tried to court sympathy by saying that he has become the target of a smear campaign by gambling lords after he cracked the whip at the DILG. He said that after the reorganization, he started seeing his name being linked to jueteng payola. This sent the senators’ eyebrows to the roof.


‘Robredo probe was on transaction, not on Puno’

[PHOTO -When Pnoy became President in 2010, it was not surprising that he appointed Puno as DILG Undersecretary in charge with police matters. It was not long when Pnoy found out that he made a blunder in appointing Puno. During the infamous August 23, 2010 hostage crisis at the Luneta grandstand that killed 8 Hong Kong tourists, Puno who is tasked to supervise the country’s police force was found to commit several lapses in the handling of the hostage crisis including: lack of crowd control, lack of control of the media and lack of equipment for the police team assigned to assault the bus held the remaining 15 hostages. (Maybe he is effective against illegal gambling as he once bragged that he is working to strengthen the small-town lottery (STL) to wipe out illegal gambling in the country).]

MANILA, Philippines - The late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo’s investigation centered on the procurement of high-powered rifles and not on his subordinate, Undersecretary Rico Puno.

In an interview with radio dzRB, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said: “The investigation is on the transaction and not centered on a specific person.”

The probe has taken center-stage following news that Puno and some police officials went to Robredo’s condominium unit on August 19, a day after the late official’s plane crashed off the waters of Masbate.

There is no indication that Puno was after the report, but the documents could implicate him.

In Vladivostok, President Benigno Aquino III finally answered the controversy and said he was the one who ordered Puno to “seal” the office of Robredo.

He said it was logical to order Puno since he was one of the undersecretaries. Nonetheless, Aquino will already replace Puno in the DILG and is mulling to transfer him to another office.

Asked why Aquino needed to secure Robredo’s offices when he was only declared dead three days after the plane crash, Valte stressed that “security still have to be maintained.” She said the President was of the sense to order the top officials in the DILG.

Asked, however, why Justice Secretary Leila de Lima still had to go to the condominium thereafter, Valte insisted it was Robredo’s wife, Ma. Leonor, who asked for it “in order to secure the personal effects.”

On Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago’s plans to probe the alleged raid led by Puno, Valte merely said: “It’s within her prerogative to call for that.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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