Miriam’s 6 questions and fury for Puno
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago set the mood for a Senate probe on Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno.
“There will be a lot of sound and fury. There will be a lot of sound from Mr Puno and maybe a lot of fury from me,” Santiago told reporters on Monday, September 10.
Santiago’s Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws will begin the investigation on Puno on Friday, September 14. The committee already invited Puno and other resource persons to the probe.
The senator said the probe will cover many topics, ranging from Puno’s attempt to retrieve the documents of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo from his condominium unit, and allegations of involvement in jueteng, an illegal numbers game, and illegal logging.
“I will look into all the controversies that have surrounded the head of Mr Puno ever since he took office,” Santiago said.
The senator said she will raise many questions in the hearing that are “uppermost in the minds of most Filipinos particularly in Metro Manila today.” Rappler earlier reported about inconsistencies in the various accounts on what happened.
The following are the questions Santiago plans to ask:
1. Why go to Robredo’s condo?
Santiago cited the statement of President Benigno Aquino III that he ordered Puno to seal the offices of Robredo, not his condominium unit in Quezon City.
“The President didn’t order you to go. Nobody requested him to go so what was he doing there? What was so urgent he had to go himself? What were the documents he wanted to get his hands on?”
Santiago added, “If it’s just a lockdown, you turn the key then you post your sentries there. Nobody can get there so the question is what was he so afraid of that he himself had to have personal possession outside of the orders of him of President Aquino?”
The senator said she found it irregular for Puno to go to Robredo’s condominium because he was not ordered to do so. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, however, said he thinks there was nothing wrong with what Puno did.
Some sectors questioned Puno's visit to the Robredo residence citing reports that the papers included files on investigations concerning him. Puno is reportedly being investigated in relation to the bidding of arms supplies of the Philippine National Police. Malacañang said though that the investigation was not centered on Puno but on the bidding.
2. Why didn’t Puno ask Mrs Robredo’s permission?
Santiago also said that Puno is guilty of “plain discourtesy or unethical conduct.”
"It would have been very easy to get on the phone with Mrs Leni Robredo in Naga and ask, ‘Can I please have your permission to go there?’”
3. Why doesn’t Mrs Robredo trust Puno?
The senator also said the reaction of Robredo’s wife, Leni, was telling. The household help called Mrs Robredo to ask if she should allow Puno and his companions inside but Robredo’s widow said no.
“That means that if we’re allowed to draw a conclusion, Mrs Robredo does not trust Mr Puno,” said Santiago.
“And this attitude could only have stemmed from her husband’s own attitude, otherwise since she is not a member of the DILG, what was the basis for the attitude that she did not want Puno inside the house at all?”
Leni Robredo however told media last week that when she got that call from their househelp, she didn't know that Puno was with the group of cops that was attempting to enter their condominium unit.
4. Why did Puno have exclusive control over PNP?
Santiago said another “major question” concerns the powers of Puno as undersecretary for peace and order.
She said under the Administrative Code, it is the Secretary of the Department who has control over the agency.
“I want to know: is it true that in practice, peace and security meaning to say the Philippine National Police was not only delegated to Mr Puno but was actually exclusive to him to the exclusion of his own secretary? That would become very anomalous.”
After the 2010 Manila hostage crisis, it was revealed that there was then an internal arrangement in the Department of the Interior and Local Government for Puno to take charge of the police while Robredo will only manage the local government component.
5. Who are Puno’s backers?
Santiago said that she would also like to find out the identity of the people behind Puno. She said that based on Aquino’s statements, the President seems to be “trying to assuage or protect Mr Puno’s backers."
Asked whether the backers are from Aquino’s party or the Samar and Balay factions, Santiago said, “This is not a political motivation we’re talking about. I think this is just corruption.”
6. Why give Puno another position?
Santiago also commented on Aquino’s plan to ask Puno if he is interested in another position. Puno is a long-time friend and a shooting buddy of the President.
“Wow for me that’s an extravagant statement,” Santiago said.
“Right now, the Senate has no basis for making up its mind. Assuming for the sake of argument that enough evidence is adduced during the hearing and he is found suspicious, sufficient for the Senate to recommend criminal investigation by the Ombudsman, that would already hinder the plan to place him in another office.”
Santiago added, “Plus it might be interpreted as insensibility to the Filipino public because if a person is under investigation, although he enjoys the presumption of innocence, still, he should not be rewarded for prior office where he is surrounded by controversy until this controversies are cleared up.”
Over the weekend, Aquino confirmed reports that Puno is on his way out of the DILG and will be replaced by Philippine National Police chief Nicanor Bartolome. – Rappler.com