MANILA - Resigned Interior and Local Government Secretary Rico Puno said his actions as a public official were all above-board, contrary to allegations and conspiracies hurled against him.
In an exclusive interview with GMA-7’s Jessica Soho on Tuesday, Puno said he had a good relationship with his former boss, the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo.
“Di ako sasama sa planong masama…maganda ang relationship namin [with Robredo],” said Puno.
He explained he was even with Robredo hours before the chartered plane he took crashed in the afternoon of August 18. He said he disclosed to Robredo his plans to resign early.
“We were onstage [at an event in Cebu] and I whispered to him, ‘Boss, I already bought the guns...My work with the President [Benigno Aquino III] is finished,’” he said.
Puno was referring to the probe that Robredo had been undertaking regarding an allegedly anomalous transaction in the procurement of firearms.
“I don’t know that an investigation was being done against me,” he said in the television interview.
Puno noted it was the President himself who instructed him to facilitate the procurement. “I was an observer at the Bids and Awards Committee…I don’t know what they’re saying that those are overpriced.”
He said the bidding went through the legal process and that all transactions were “above-board.”
He also downplayed allegations he went to Israel last May upon the invitation of one of the bidders. “I went there with my family for a vacation,” he said.
As to the allegations he is involved in jueteng, Puno also said he does not know anything about it.
The day after the Naga-bound plane crashed off Masbate, Puno and other police officials went to Robredo’s condominium.
While some questioned what he was doing there, the embattled official said he was only following the instructions of Aquino.
“President Aquino’s instructions were very specific: You have to secure Robredo’s offices. I have ordered him to investigate several matters. Those documents should be secured. They should not be copied nor destroyed,” Puno said.
Puno admitted the instruction did not include Robredo’s condominium, but prudence also dictated that he go there. He said he was informed that the documents were being kept there.
“I did not even enter the condo. It was [Superintendent Oliver Tanseco] who went and instructed the maid. Later that afternoon, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima also went there,” he said.
He said serving the President was his only purpose during his stint in government.
"I believe that I have carried out my assigned duties to the best of my ability. Moving forward, I have resigned as DILG Undersecretary to support the President’s decision to give a free hand to the incoming Secretary in forming a new team,” read his press statement released earlier in the day.
ABS-CBNnews.com obtained a copy of his resignation letter dated August 31. Malacañang accepted his resignation only today, based on a reply from Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.
In the same statement, Puno thanked Aquino for believing in him. Prodded further in the TV interview if he would take a bullet for Aquino, he said: “Anytime.”
Asked if he would still go to the probe initiated by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago on Friday, he said: “Im already on vacation. I don’t know where the invitation would be sent…I haven’t seen it.”