De Lima won’t attend Puno probe-A A +A
Thursday, September 13, 2012
JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima will be in a meeting in Malacañang on Friday morning, effectively barring her to attend the Senate inquiry on the supposed raid on the late Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo’s residence last month.
De Lima was invited, along with other government officials, by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago to explain why Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno went to Robredo’s condominium unit in Quezon City beyond what was tasked by President Benigno Aquino III.
But in a text message, De Lima said she sent a regret letter to the Senate committee on constitutional reforms and revision of laws, which Santiago chairs.
"I have Palace meetings tomorrow (Friday) from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Also, I (have) no authority yet from the President to appear," she said.
The hearing is scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m.
Earlier in the day, De Lima said at the outset, she is faced with the dilemma of having to attend an inquiry whose purpose is not clear.
"If you saw the notice, it stated 'an evaluation of Usec. Puno event' and laws were mentioned. It's so vague. And we are being asked to deliver a statement. Which 'event' is the committee talking about? What is the exact objective?" she told reporters.
Puno has yet to respond to the request, although a subpoena might be issued if he skips the first hearing.
Robredo, whose department is overseeing local governments and the police, discreetly launched investigations on several matters, including the scuttled multi-billion peso firearms deal, where Puno was supposedly implicated for conflict of interest.
It was De Lima who advised Aquino to order a lockdown on Robredo's offices a day after the late secretary figured in a fatal plane crash in Masbate last August 18.
De Lima said she came to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) minutes after Puno sealed Robredo’s office.
"I entered to make sure that the office was really secured. I felt it was part of my initiative since that was what I had discussed with the President. I felt nothing wrong to follow it through," she said.
De Lima also could not fathom why the lockdown was given too much media attention, saying it is the President’s prerogative to direct such action.
"What's wrong with it? It has been blown out of proportion already. Why? Was it because Undersecretary Puno is the one involved, that he was one who carried out the order?" she said.
Puno, who resigned on Tuesday, is expected to be given another government position but not until issues attached to his name are cleared up.
The hearing will also establish if Puno was given full control of the Philippine National Police (PNP), which originally belongs to the DILG chief, and that if the resigned official received payoffs from people running the illegal numbers game "jueteng."
For Archbishop emeritus Oscar Cruz, the problem lies with the lack of implementation of existing laws against the illegal numbers game.
Cruz said he believes there is no more need for the probe as far as aiding legislation is concerned since there are already enough laws against it.
"The fight is in the Executive Department level, and, unfortunately, it is not functioning," he said.
In September 2010, Cruz said that Puno and then recently retired police Chief Director General Jesus Verzosa each received between P5 million and P8 million a month in jueteng payola.
Cruz said he has decided to heed the invitation of the Senate regarding the matter.
"I will be attending and we will be ready to say what we know. We are ready to help as much as we can," assured the retired prelate, who was hesitant at first because he believes that he can no longer contribute anything new on the issue.
Also expected to be present are Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, National Police Commission vice chairperson Eduardo Escueta, PNP Chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome, PNP Deputy Director General Emelito Sarmiento (PNP Bids and Awards Committee chairperson), Reynaldo Espeneli, Senior Superintendent Oliver Tanseco, Senior Superintendent Joel Pagdilao (Deputy Director of Operations, Quezon City Police District), Jocelyn Jose of Trust Trade and Glock Asia Pacific DILG Special Assistant Isoceles Otero and Major General Renato Miranda, head of the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force. (Virgil Lopez/HDT/JCV/Sunnex)