MANILA, Philippines – Despite the botched police rescue of Hong Kong tourists, Malacañang believes Rico Puno is qualified for his post as Interior and Local Government undersecretary for peace and order.
Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma said Puno has the experience and skill to oversee various agencies under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) such as the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and the Philippine Public Safety College.
Coloma issued the statement amid the ongoing political backlash caused by the August 23 hostage crisis in Manila.
Puno was the Palace’s point man in the crisis management committee that handled efforts to convince former police officer Rodolfo Mendoza to free the Hong Kong tourists he held hostage.
DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo earlier said that he was “out of the loop” in the hostage negotiations, and that Puno was assigned to monitor the crisis.
Coloma said critics who question Puno’s leadership skills should “justify their claim”.
Puno’s curriculum vitae, which the Presidential Communications Office gave to journalists, shows that the DILG deputy chief was a "long-time consultant" of then-Senator Benigno Aquino III in the upper chamber’s Committee on Public Order and Safety and Dangerous Drugs and Special Oversight on Economic Affairs body.
According to the document, Puno "reviewed and analyzed the pertinent laws and polices of the Dangerous Drugs Board," and advised Aquino in the Senate Committee on Public Order and Safety.
He also served as the “overall ground commander" in Aquino’s 2007 senatorial campaign.
Puno was president of Far East Ballistics Corporation from 1992 to 1995, where “he implemented polices for improvement and development in the production of ammunition."
He was also board member of the National Range Officers Institute at Philippine Practical Shooting Association, and was involved in the staging of shooting competitions in the country and abroad.
He is a known gun enthusiast, reports said.
Coloma, however, stressed that "Puno reports to Robredo," and that the DILG chief had an oversight function during the hostage crisis.
Aquino earlier said he ordered Robredo to “rein in” a high-ranking National Police Commission official who was meddling in the negotiations for the release of the hostages.