Aquino urged to let go Puno amid controversy-A A +A
Sunday, September 9, 2012
MANILA – A lawmaker advised President Benigno Aquino III to allow Undersecretary Rico Puno to take leave of absence while investigation on former Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo’s death is ongoing.
Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr., an administration ally, said the more prudent thing to do is to remove Puno from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) or allow him to take leave of absence.
It was earlier reported that Local Government Undersecretary Puno and several police officials have tried to gain entry into Robredo's condominium unit in Quezon City on August 19, a day after a tragic plane crash off Masbate killed Robredo. The government was still conducting a search and rescue operation at that time.
Puno is reportedly a subject of an investigation by the late Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo.
Before his death, Robredo allegedly received a report implicating Puno in a supposed anomalous deal on the purchase of assault rifles for the Philippine National Police (PNP), an agency under the DILG.
"I think the investigation on alleged irregularities implicating Usec Puno must continue. That's the tuwid [right] thing to do. The investigation, if not pursued, would invite suspicion of a conspiracy theory on his [Robredo] death," said Baguilat, a deputy spokesperson of Aquino's Liberal Party.
Baguilat, a close friend of Robredo, is also one of the first members of the Kaya Natin movement for good governance, along with the late DILG Secretary.
Agham party-list Representative Angelo Palmones, meanwhile, called for Puno's resignation.
"Usec Puno may be PNoy's [Aquino] best shooting buddy, but he's not a true friend. If Puno is indeed concerned and supportive to PNoy's governance, he must have delicadeza to resign now," he said in a text message.
The DILG official once offered his voluntary resignation two years ago when he was linked to illegal gambling and in the August 23 botched hostage crisis in Manila, which killed several Chinese tourists.
In a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing two weeks later, Puno was quoted as saying: "I was about to resign but the President told me to continue on."
Puno's fate hangs as Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel Roxas II is set to take over DILG.
After his appointment was announced by Malacañang, Roxas himself announced that Puno is out of DILG. However, Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa Jr. said the undersecretary remains with the agency.
In a recent ambush interview, Puno said he is willing to work with Roxas.
Senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Francis Pangilinan, for their part, said that Puno should be given a fair chance of explaining himself in case the reported investigation involves his name.
"If it's true that there's already an investigation ongoing, better that we let the process finish first before calling for any resignations," Pimentel said.
"I am sure the President is on top of this latest controversy and will do what needs to be done to address it," Pangilinan added.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, meanwhile, challenged Puno to speak up on the issues hounding him.
"Be transparent. If you are innocent, answer the accusations against you. Bakit siya nananahimik? This is all puzzling to me," Santiago said on Saturday.
Santiago said she will seek an investigation on the "unique and exceptional" powers given to Puno as DILG Undersecretary.
She added the DILG Secretary is usually given the authority over the PNP but in the present administration, the President chose Puno to take control over the police force.
"This case of Undersecretary Puno is completely unique, if not anomalous. I believe that Mr. Rico Puno was able to occupy this unique office of the Undersecretary with his unique or exceptional or anomalous powers because of severe pressure on Mr. Aquino," Santiago said.
Santiago added that the inquiry will also cover the supposed break-in of Puno into Robredo's condominium unit.
"That is so suspicious. What on earth was so compelling? Namatayan na ang pamilya [The family has lost one member]. His first instinct should be to sympathize or condole with the family," she said. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)