By Aurea Calica Resigned Interior and Local Government undersecretary Rico Puno is not yet off the hook as far as the issue of the bidding for assault rifles for the Philippine National Police (PNP) is concerned.

No one is in the clear yet, President Aquino said yesterday, including Puno, on the issue surrounding the PNP’s bidding for rifles that turned out to be more expensive than prices quoted on the Internet.

“I would like to verify the bidding process and why it turned out this way. So all those involved in that process should be investigated to determine why it happened, particularly the rifle issue,” he said.

“That is being investigated, you know very well I tasked (the late Interior) Secretary (Jesse) Robredo to investigate why there were so many interested in the first place, and it turned out that one bidder who was not able to conform with the specifications won,” Aquino said.

“What was wrong with the specs in the first place? Was there any defect in the bidding process? Who should be held responsible for this? It seems to me that they are going to purchase the rifles which specs are not made for the police,” he said.

“So tuloy-tuloy (the investigation would continue),” he added.

Separately, the PNP is about to wrap up a deal with a gun supplier for a contract of almost 60,000 units of Glock pistols.

The gun deal is awaiting the signature of PNP chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome.

In an interview with reporters at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo, Aquino said he was still thinking of giving Puno another position but not in the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and not until all issues were cleared up.

Puno mentioned in his interviews that the President was eyeing a nice and quiet job for him.

Aquino, however, said, “No, the quiet (job) is just his wish.”

“Right now, it’s under consideration but there is nothing confirmed. We’ll finish so many things but not in the DILG... if that could materialize,” Aquino said.

Asked if he could categorically say that Puno was not facing investigation or any case on the rifle deal and the condominium incident, the President only cleared Puno on the condominium incident.

Aquino said he had asked Puno questions about the condominium incident, because the instructions were “specifically” only to clear the offices.

“When I issued that order... my understanding is he will assume the lockdown of all the offices I wanted secured. Understandably, Superintendent (Oliver) Tanseco was reminding him that no documents and papers should get out of the offices of Secretary Robredo,” he added.

“So when we were in Masbate looking for Secretary Robredo, I was on the assumption that Puno had secured the vital documents and where they should be... not to get them or read them but to see to it that nothing gets lost or misplaced in the offices of Robredo,” Aquino said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, for her part, confirmed that she and Puno were there during the supposed “raid” on the offices of Robredo.

“I never denied that I also went there. Because since I was the one who reminded the President about the need to secure offices and the documents. So I went there and he was also there,” De Lima said.

“I was there, and a few minutes later, he came also. He saw and monitored the offices (of Robredo) and secured the documents,” she said.

De Lima, however, denied she and Puno went there together.

“I arrived (at the DILG). I came first. And several minutes later he was there. But he was just there monitoring. He did not interfere. I felt also it was my responsibility to do the securing of the documents,” De Lima said.

De Lima also clarified that it was only in the offices of the DILG, Napolcom and the PNP headquarters at Camp Crame where she and Puno saw each other during the securing of the offices and documents.

“I do not remember who went ahead (at Napolcom).We hardly talked, just acknowledged (each other),” De Lima said.

On the other hand, with regard to the condominium unit, De Lima said Puno was not there when she visited the place.

De Lima also said she does not have in her possession any document belonging to Robredo.

Probe team

Puno tendered his resignation on Aug. 31 – the same day Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II was appointed Interior secretary – and announced it last Tuesday, a move that was welcomed by several sectors, including Church leaders.

Marbel, South Cotabato Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez yesterday said that it was “very good” news that Puno has stepped down.

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes believed that even if Puno is no longer connected with government, the Senate should still conduct an investigation.

“I approve of his resignation. However, 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,” Bastes said.

Santiago called for a probe into the activities of Puno during his stint as undersecretary of the DILG, particularly on what she described as a unique situation in which Puno had control and supervision over the PNP instead of the secretary of the Interior and Local Government.

Santiago said Puno must also answer questions about what he did to stop the illegal numbers game jueteng as well as his alleged involvement in illegal logging and the irregular deal to purchase arms for the PNP.

Santiago announced her plan to conduct an investigation on Puno during a press briefing last Saturday.

A day later, Santiago said a resolution at the Senate would not be needed for the hearing to push through, considering the committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws, of which she is the chair, would conduct the inquiry.

Apart from Puno, Santiago invited De Lima, Roxas, Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa Jr., and Ma. Leonor Robredo.

Mrs. Robredo declined to attend the hearing because she was still grieving over the death of her husband.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, however, said the Senate must be careful in taking this course of action, especially with most of the intended resource persons coming from the executive branch.

“We will see if motu propio (on its own), any committee in the Senate can just call a hearing to evaluate an office because that is normally a function of the executive department,” Enrile said.

“We might be going beyond our mandate because we will be treading in the domain of the presidency since the executive department is under the President. He has control and supervision over all departments of government,” he added.

Santiago, who was not present at yesterday’s plenary session because of hypertension, was still pushing forward with the hearing in spite of the concerns raised by Enrile.

In an advisory sent by her office, Santiago announced a change of venue for the hearing, from one of the smaller committee hearing rooms to the bigger session hall.

Enrile said the ideal course of action of Santiago would be to avail herself of the so-called question hour during which the Senate could call on any official to respond to questions raised by the legislators.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, chairman of the committee on rules, said there was a precedent to what Santiago intends to do in the case of Puno.

For as long as the matter to be taken up is covered by the scope of the concerned committee, Sotto said there should be no problem.

Considering that the committee chaired by Santiago covers the revisions of codes and laws, which Sotto noted had a wide range of issues, then the hearing could be justified.

“But unless somebody questions it on the floor, I will not lift a finger,” Sotto said.

The House of Representatives also wanted Puno investigated over the firearms deal.

But Cebu Rep. Pablo John Garcia, chairman of the House committee on public order and safety, said the congressional probe on Puno could not start immediately since the chamber is still focused on deliberations on the proposed national budget.

Garcia said he was aware of the resolution filed by Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop and Agham party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones directing the House to investigate Puno over the firearms deal.

“I anticipate that we may be able to start the investigation maybe next month, that is, there would be no intervening events, or a duplication if the Senate will conduct its own inquiry,” Garcia said.

House Minority Leader Suarez said the PNP modernization is becoming another casualty in the politicking in the DILG.

Suarez noted the scrapping of the plan to purchase assault rifles for the PNP.

“Even when I was still in the private sector, the winning bidder is always subject to attack by the losing bidders. Such attacks may take the form of legal cases and vicious articles in the media. If every public contract will be overturned upon mere suspicion of anomaly, then we will never achieve modernization. This is very unfortunate because modernization of the PNP/AFP is a proper step forward,” Suarez said. – With Marvin Sy, Sandy Araneta, Paolo Romero, Evelyn Macairan

Undersecretary Rico Puno resigns The Philippine Star Updated September 11, 2012 04:02 PM 58 comments to this post

MANILA, Philippines - Controversial Undersecretary Rico Puno on Tuesday announced that he has resigned from his post in the Department of Interior and Local Government.

In a two-page statement released by Malacanang, Puno said he opted to keep silent all this time due to the confidential nature of his job and that he wanted to “thank President Aquino for his trust and confidence in giving me the opportunity to serve the country and the people.”

Puno said that he resigned in support of President Benigno Aquino III's request that newly-installed Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas be given a free hand to choose his own people.

“Moving forward, I have resigned as [Department of Interior and Local Government] Undersecretary to support the President’s decision to give a free hand to the incoming secretary in forming a new team,” he said in his statement.

Puno also touched on reports that he raided the offices and condominium unit of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo last August 19.

He said that he decided to remain silent despite the allegations because he was "duty-bound to act with restraint and circumspection, even when subjected to personal attacks in the mass media."

"Violating the confidential nature of my duets may expose people to danger or jeopardize critical operations... This is why I opted not to react to the speculative accusations that have been hurled against me by some media organizations," he said.

Puno included in his statement the "chronology" of events that supposedly transpired on August 18 and August 19, the days when he and a team of policemen reportedly "raided" the offices and condominium unit of Robredo:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

2045 H (8:45 pm) (Mactan Cebu International Airport) •Boarded the Cebu Pacific flight to Manila. When I was about to board, the President called and instructed me to secure the offices of Secretary Robredo. I relayed the instructions to Superintendent Oliver Tanseco, deputy chief of the Office of Internal Security in Secretary Robredo’s office.

2230 H (10:30 pm)(NAIA 3 Terminal) •Arrived in Manila

2330 H (11:30 pm) PNP Director-General’s Quarters, Camp Crame “White House” •Proceeded to the PNP Director-General’s Quarters. Among those present there were Usec. Austere Panadero, PNP Director-General Nicanor Bartolome, Ms. Joan de la Cruz, a member of Secretary Robredo’s staff and S/Supt. Tanseco. •The President called again and I reported the offices have been secured.

Sunday, August 19

0900 H (9:00 am) •Supervised sealing of Secretary Robredo’s Office at DILG Quezon City accompanied by the following: S/Superintendent Joel Pagdilao, Superintendent Oliver Tanseco, Chief Inspector Apollo Togonon and other security officers of Sec. Robredo.

0930 H (9:30 am) •Informed by Superintendent Tanseco that there were documents inside the residence/condominium of the Secretary.

1000 H (10:00 am) •Led team to secure Secretary Robredo’s condominium unit; stayed in condominium lobby; instructed team to sign condominium log book to document our presence; left condominium after about 20 minutes.

1030 H (10:30 am) •Arrived at Camp Crame and supervised sealing of Secretary Robredo’s office; left Camp Crame after about 15 minutes.

1130 H (11:30 am) • Arrived at National Police Commission (Napolcom) building in Makati City; supervised sealing of Secretary Robredo’s office; left after about 20 minutes.

1500 H (3:30 pm) • Accompanied Secretary of Justice and Presidential Security Group team that performed inspection, sealing and securing of Secretary Robredo’s: a) DILG office; b) condominium unit; c) Camp Crame office; and d) Napolcom office. Entire operations were completed at around 7:00 pm.

Puno stressed that since he was appointed as Undersecretary for Peace and Order in the DILG, he was able to introduce reforms to ensure full transparency of procurement and bidding processes.

“We have streamlined these processes to achieve the President’s objective of getting ‘the biggest bang for the buck’ in providing basic equipment to enable our uniformed personnel to perform their tasks effectively,” he said.

He added: “ I believe that I have carried out my assigned duties to the best of my ability.” with a report from Aurea Calica

Now, Puno faces 2 probes in Congress By Cathy Yamsuan, Christian V. Esguerra Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:22 am | Thursday, September 13th, 2012

When it rains, it pours for resigned Interior Undersecretary Rico E. Puno.

[PHOTO -PNP chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome: Priming up? Bartolome is said to be the choice of President Aquino to replace Puno, who has resigned Tuesday INQUIRER FILE PHOTO]

Besides a Senate hearing scheduled for Friday, Puno will also be investigated by the House committee on public order and safety in connection with the purchase of around 60,000 pistols worth P1 billion for the Philippine National Police.

The investigation will take place in about two weeks because the chamber is still preoccupied with plenary deliberations on the proposed P2-trillion national budget, said Cebu Representative Pablo John Garcia, chairman of the committee.

Garcia said the House inquiry was prompted by a resolution filed by Representatives Angelo Palmones of the Agham party-list group and Romeo Acop of Antipolo City. He said this should not be seen as an attempt by the House to gang up on the beleaguered undersecretary for police affairs in the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

“Usec Puno has already said that he had nothing to do with (the purchase) and it was not overpriced and the process was regular—(the hearing) could be an opportunity and a forum for him to properly air his side,” Garcia said in a phone interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Puno, a shooting-range buddy of President Benigno Aquino, quit his post amid the controversy surrounding the purported “raids” he had conducted on the offices and condominium unit of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo. Puno has denied any wrongdoing.

Limited to pistol purchase

Unlike the Senate probe, which is expected to also cover “jueteng” operations, the House inquiry would be limited to the pistol purchase, Garcia said.

In their resolution, Palmones and Acop said the investigation should be done “for purposes of good governance, transparency and accountability.”

“The bidding process of … the procurement of firearms as of the recent report has not been completed, and that some bidders have not complied with the required eligibility documents and other necessary bidding documents to qualify for the bid,” they said.

“Some information is being circulated that there is now a winning bidder for the afore-cited police firearms, which is inconsistent with the established bidding procedures…”

A number of PNP officials involved in the bidding process would also be summoned to the House inquiry, said Garcia.

The committee will proceed with the investigation even if no less than Malacańang had cleared the P1-billion deal for the purchase of Glock 17 (Generation 4) 9mm pistols. Glock Asia Pacific Ltd. and its local affiliate, Trust Trade, cornered the contract last August 31.

“Remember, we don’t have problems with the pistols—the (ones manufactured and distributed by) Glock. There’s no problem with the bidding on Glock. It was the bidding on the rifle that the President has some concerns,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, earlier said.

Mr. Aquino reportedly halted the bidding for PNP rifles following the discovery that those to be procured had been overpriced.

Senate probe defective

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (photo) on Wednesday raised possible technical defects in Friday’s hearing on Puno in the upper chamber, pointing out the absence of a resolution or a proposed legislative measure to justify the inquiry.

There are only two Senate committees—rules chaired by the majority leader and public accountability or blue ribbon—that can conduct investigations motu propio, he said.

Enrile suggested that the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes and laws headed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago might not be the appropriate panel to “evaluate” Puno’s performance in the DILG.

Santiago announced earlier this week she wanted Puno to justify why he assumed the department’s supervision over the police when this was clearly a responsibility of Robredo, who died in a plane crash on August 18. She said the inquiry would determine whether Puno’s assumption of powers of the interior secretary violated the Administrative Code.

She said that because of this “irregular” setup, the illegal numbers game jueteng continued to thrive throughout the country under the Aquino administration.

Enrile reminded Santiago that her committee was concerned “only with proposals to amend the Constitution or revise existing laws.” He said that the Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs chaired by Senator Gregorio Honasan would be a more appropriate panel for the investigation.

Question hour

[PHOTO -Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago]

Or, Santiago can arrange for a Question Hour as provided by the Constitution since she also intends to invite Cabinet secretaries to the investigation, Enrile said.

A chamber of Congress can invite a Cabinet secretary to answer questions related to his department during the Question Hour. This is usually done during urgent situations such as a power crisis.

Enrile noted that among the invited guests to the hearing are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and incoming Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas.

Santiago earlier said that in case the Senate assigned another committee to investigate Puno, she would insist that her panel be the primary committee in the effort.

Enrile said he had nothing against Santiago’s planned face-off with Puno except that it would be better if she filed a resolution calling for the probe before conducting a hearing.

“With due respect to Senator Miriam, an evaluation of Undersecretary Puno’s performance is a function of the executive department. That is not within the jurisdiction of the Senate,” he said.

“Only the President can evaluate the members of his official family, not the Senate. Besides, the undersecretary’s position is not among those subject to confirmation (by the Commission on Appointments),” he added.

Witnesses can object

The Senate President said that apart from the rules and blue ribbon committees, those with oversight functions could also hold investigations motu propio but only in connection with the responsibilities of that specific committee.

“I will not be the one to question all of this because as Senate president, I head the institution. But we have to examine the legalities because there might be issues that would be raised,” Enrile warned. He said he did not raise the warning as a favor to Puno.

“I am not saying that. However, those to be called to the investigation can raise an issue about it,” he explained.

Enrile said he had instructed Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto and the chamber’s legal division to check whether Santiago could hold the investigation without a resolution.

A senator who requested anonymity said Santiago’s hearing could proceed if there’s no objection raised to it.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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