Puno resigns from DILG-A A +A
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
MANILA (3rd Update) -- Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno stepped down from his post Tuesday amid allegations of his involvement in an anomalous multibillion peso firearms deal.
Puno, a shooting buddy of President Benigno Aquino III, said he resigned to give incoming Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas III a free hand in forming his new team at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Tuesday afternoon that the President has accepted Puno's resignation letter, which the beleaguered official submitted to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa last Friday.
Lacierda said that Puno's resignation is commendable.
"Resignation is always a selfless act and that's something that has always been—especially in terms of, in the midst of a difficult situation. It certainly is commendable that the official concerned resigns on his own accord," he said.
Lacierda confirmed that Aquino and Puno met Monday but said he was not privy to the details of the meeting.
The Palace official said Puno's resignation "cleared the air" in the apparent special treatment of the President on his close appointees.
"This is a development that certainly would put to rest all these accusations of the fact that Undersecretary Puno is close to the President and he’s being coddled and that’s no," he said.
Puno, in a statement, thanked the President for his trust and confidence "in giving me the opportunity to serve our country and people."
The resigned official said that despite being subjected to personal attacks in media, he was duty-bound to act with restraint and circumspection due to the confidential nature of his job.
"Violating the confidential nature of my duties may expose people to danger or jeopardize critical operations," he said.
"This is why I have opted not to react to the speculative accusations that have been hurled against me by some media organizations," he added.
Puno said he believed that he has carried out his assigned duties as undersecretary for peace and order "to the best of my ability."
"When the President asked me to serve in the DILG, he emphasized that we need to strengthen the institution so that our uniformed personnel will become truly servants and protectors of our people. For the past two years, I have carried out specific assignments in accordance with the President's mandate," he said.
Among the reforms he had introduced include the transparency of procurement and bidding process.
"We have streamlined these processes to achieve the President's objective of getting 'the biggest bang for the buck' in providing basic equipment for enabling our uniformed personnel to perform their tasks effectively," he added.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has set an investigation to tackle issues implicating Puno in the botched purchase of assault rifles for the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Puno reportedly went to Israel in May upon the invitation of one of the bidders and that the specifications were supposedly tailor-made for a certain party.
The hearing was also scheduled to give Puno a chance to shed light on alleged break-in at the condominium unit and office of the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo last August 19, a day after the esteemed official went missing in a tragic plane crash off Masbate.
Before his death, Robredo allegedly received a report implicating Puno in the supposed anomalous firearms deal.
But prior to the inquiry, which starts on Friday, September 14, Puno offered this chronology of events that transpired on August 18 and 19, when he allegedly tried to enter the condominium unit and office of Robredo:
Saturday, August 18, 2012
8:45 p.m. (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.
10:30 p.m. (NAIA 3 Terminal) -- Arrived in Manila
11:30 p.m. 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
9 a.m. -- 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.
9:30 a.m. -- Informed by Superintendent Tanseco that there were documents inside the residence/condominium of the Secretary.
10 a.m. -- 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.
10:30 a.m. -- Arrived at Camp Crame and supervised sealing of Secretary Robredo’s office; left Camp Crame after about 15 minutes.
11:30 a.m. -- Arrived at National Police Commission (Napolcom) building in Makati City; supervised sealing of Secretary Robredo’s office; left after about 20 minutes.
3:30 p.m. -- 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.
President Aquino confirmed over the weekend that he asked Puno to secure the documents inside Robredo's office since the late Cabinet official was investigating sensitive cases, including the arms deal, prior to his death. He said, however, that he did not order Puno to go to the late secretary’s condominium.
Lacierda believed that Puno did not do anything wrong in securing the offices of Robredo and he only followed the instruction of the President.
Sought for comment, Senator Santiago said the hearing on Friday will push through despite Puno's resignation.
"He still has to answer the many questions in the mind of the public," she said.
The hearing will take place at 10:30 a.m. of Friday, September 14.
Also invited to participate were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, newly appointed Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome, retired Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz and Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, wife of the late secretary.
Robredo's wife Leni, however, sent a letter to Santiago's office that she can't attend the hearing.
"She (Leni) is afraid that such a very public event concerning her husband's work might cause too much pain, stress for her family," said lawyer Domnina Rances, head executive assistant to the late secretary. (Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)