Puno: Visit to Robredo condo was my idea - and not authorized nor ordered by PNoy
The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE - 8:54 p.m.) Resigned Interior Undersecretary Rico E. Puno said on Tuesday that he took it upon himself to go to the condominium unit of the late Secretary Jesse Robredo to secure 'sensitive documents', adding that he did so without any order or authority from President Aquino.
Puno appeared before News5 and Interaksyon.com in Quezon City, speaking for the first time since resigning on Tuesday afternoon. He insisted that all the allegations against him - including reports that his visit to Robredo's office and condo were spurred by a self-serving mission to mitigate against DILG investigations into allegedly anomalous deals for the purchase of guns for the National Police - are "fabrications".
Aquino had earlier said that he had ordered Puno on March 18, the day Robredo died in a plane crash, to secure the late Secretary's offices at the Department of Interior and Local Government, Camp Crame and the National Police Commission but never told him to go to the condominium.
However, Puno said, “So nu'ng nalaman ko at sinabi sa'kin ni (Robredo's senior police aide) Superintendent (Oliver) Tanseco na merong dokumento sa condo unit ni Sec. Robredo, sabi ko i-secure na rin natin 'yan maski walang utos (So, when I learned and Supt. Tanseco told me there were documents at the condo unit of Sec. Robredo, I said let's secure the documents even without orders),” he said.
The condominium visit on August 19 stirred controversy after news reports called it an attempted "raid."
The maid at Robredo's apartment did not allow anyone in and called up his widow, Leni, who later said she requested Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to secure the condominium.
Long time coming
On Tuesday, Puno announced his resignation.
Malacanang spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Puno had actually submitted his resignation letter to Aquino on Friday and that it was accpeted "effective immediately."
But Puno said he had long planned to quit his job and his resignation had nothing to do with reports that he was being investigated by Robredo.
In fact, Puno said he even informed Robredo of his plan to resign even before the latter’s death.
“Pinagawa ko ng resignation letter 'yung anak ko. Nainip na nga siya eh, kasi delayed (ang resignation) eh. Ilang beses na namin binago 'yun. Actually, tapos na nga 'yung trabaho ko eh. Nagawa ko na lahat ng inutos sa akin at natapos na namin 'yan. Ngayon, tapos meron tayong bagong kalihim para sa ating bagong departamento at ang utos sa'tin eh bigyan siya ng free hand so … mas mabuti pa na mag-resign na ako (I asked my child to draft my resignation letter. My child was impatient already because it was delayed. We had rewritten the letter several times. Actually, my work is done. I've done everything ordered of me, we've completed everything. Now, we have a new secretary for our department and his orders to us were to give him a free hand so ... it's better that I resign),” Puno said.
He said he was unaware that he was being investigated by Robredo and also denied anomalies in the gun procurement and other procurement deals of the Philippine National Police PNP.
“Everything is above board. 'Di lang sa (Not just the) firearms, pati sa (but also) combat boots, patrol shoes, protective vests, nand'yan 'yung (as well as) shirts, motorcycle, truck, vehicles,” he said.
Puno said the supposed overpriced rifles were in fact a “package” deal consisting of the gun, 360 rounds of ammunition and eight magazines. He said this had already been explained to Aquino, who said he personally discovered the overprice.
Puno also denied his trip to Israel, reportedly to visit gun supplier Espinelli, was related to the procurement deal.
He said it was a personal trip with his family.
“Ang pagpunta ko sa Israel plano ng aming pamilya kasama ang aking asawa, dalawang anak at apat na pamangkin. Plano namin ito nuon pang December 'nung magkakasama kami 'nung Pasko at sinabi naming punta tayo magbakasyon tayo (My trip to Israel was planned by my family including my wife, two children and four nephews/nieces. We had planned it way back in December when we were together for Christmas and I said let's go take a vacation),” Puno said.
He said it just so happened that he saw now-retired Gen. Leocadio Santiago who was also with his family at the time.
“Sinabi ko sa kanya gusto ko lang naman mapuntahan at makita ang Tel Aviv, ang Jerusalem at lumangoy sa Dead Sea (I told him all I wanted was to see Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and to swim in the Dead Sea),” Puno said.
Puno also dismissed reports he is a member of either the "Balay" and "Samar" factions, feuding groups of Aquino's closest supporters. Balay is headed by Vice President Jejomar Binay and Samar by new Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.
“Hindi ako Balay, 'di ako Samar, ako ay taga-Times,” he said, referring to Times Street, the address of Aquino's Quezon City residence.
Puno said he felt relieved after resigning.
“... I know that the truth was on my side but I never felt any tension with regards to whatever they were saying. I did nothing wrong. All of these were fabrications and that was the feeling also of my children, my wife and my mother,” he said.
Puno added that he was willing to take up another post if he is offered one by Aquino but for now he said he is looking forward to taking a vacation and going back to his farm in Tarlac.