The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE 2 - 12:15 p.m.) Resigned Interior Undersecretary Rico E. Puno showed up at the Senate on Friday and said his detractors have not shown any proof of their claims against him, including allegedly being a protector of the illegal numbers game “jueteng.”
“Until now they do not have a single piece of evidence that I am a top jueteng protector,” Puno told the hearing called by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.
Although there was earlier speculation he would not show up, Puno said he came to clear his name.
Santiago, who was joined by Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, pushed through with the hearing despite the lack of a resolution from the plenary.
The inquiry is intended to look into Puno’s allegedly “irregular” control over the Philippine National Police and his attempt to enter the condominium unit of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo.
“As chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, I wanted to know if the Administrative Code allows the delegation of the power of control to an undersecretary to a jurisdiction supposedly delegated to the secretary,” Santiago said in an earlier interview.
Puno, a close friend of President Benigno Aquino III, resigned after he was dragged into a series of controversies involving allegedly anomalous purchases of weapons for the PNP and his attempt to enter Robredo's condominium, ostensibly to secure sensitive documents there a day after the plane crash that took the Interior Secretary's life but well before his body was recovered.
Aquino said he had ordered Puno to secure Robredo's offices but not the condominium. Puno later said he went to Robredo's condominium on his own volition.
Also at the hearing are PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome and Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a prominent anti-gambling campaigner.
As the hearing opened, Santiago blasted those who took her to task for conducting the unilateral inquiry, saying this was allowed by Senate Rules.
During the hearing, Puno clarified the DILG set-up in response to Santiago’s query on whether he was given exclusive jurisdiction and operational control over the Interior side of the DILG portfolio.
Puno explained that there are two DILG undersecretaries. The other one is Austere Panadero, who was put in charge of the local government side.
He [Puno] was the undersecretary for the Interior, overseeing the PNP and Bureau of Fire Protection. He said he represented, advised Robredo on matters pertaining to the National Police Commission while operational control of PNP rested with the PNP chief.
Both he and Panadero reported to Robredo.
“However, as what happened last August 18, I can get special instructions from the President,” he said, referring to Aquino’s order to secure Robredo’s offices.
Santiago asked, “So you’re clarifying now that you had no such exclusive power [over the Interior side of portfolio]?”
Puno replied: “No.”
At one point, Santiago appeared incredulous when Puno, after denying he received jueteng payoffs, also said he knew of no one in Malacanang or the DILG who did.
Santiago also questioned on what authority Puno had called a meeting of firearms suppliers who were bidding for a contract with the PNP although he is merely an observer in the Bids and Awards Committee.
Puno said he merely wanted to make sure the PNP would be getting the firearms it needed.
Santiago also presented an anonymous email claiming Puno has several close relatives occupying "juicy" government positions. (Karl John C. Reyes, InterAksyon.com)