Miriam to grill Puno over 'unique' powers

by Ryan Chua and Karen Davila, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 11 2012 01:09 AM | Updated as of Sep 11 2012 07:28 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - Expect embattled Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno to face difficult questions at the hands of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago when the Senate begins on Friday its investigation on the powers given to him by President Benigno Aquino.

Santiago, who has described Puno's powers "unique" and "anomalous," wants to know why the interior undersecretary tried to enter condominium unit of the late Secretary Jesse Robredo.

"Why did you have to go to the house when nobody told you to go there? What was he doing there? What was so urgent that he had to go himself? What were the documents that he wanted to get his hands on?" she asked.

Aside from Puno, the Senate committee on Constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws invited Robredo's wife Leni, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, police Director General Nicanor Bartolome, and incoming DILG Secretary Mar Roxas.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz were also invited to the hearing to discuss other issues allegedly involving Puno such as illegal logging and the illegal gambling.

Exclusive powers

The Senate's investigation is expected to focus on the exclusive powers over the police given to Puno.

For Santiago, this is anomalous and proves the undersecretary has strong backers.

She, however, refused to identify Puno's alleged backers.

"I am going to try and draw that out or piece that out during the hearing," she said. "Right now I can't, because I'll be accused of unfair allegation without any evidence."

Santiago also believes Puno must not be appointed to any government position should he leave the DILG if he is unable to clear himself of the charges against him.

Reacting to President Aquino's statement that Puno will be given another government post depending on his preference and expertise, Santiago said, "Wow. For me that's an extravagant statement."

"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 to the Ombudsman, then that would already hinder the plan to place him in another office.

"It might be interpreted as insensibility to the Filipino public, because a person under investigation, although he assumes a presumption of innocence, still he should not be rewarded for prior office when he is surrounded by controversy until these controversies are cleared up."

Enrille: Nothing wrong with Puno at Robredo condo

However, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile sees nothing wrong with Puno's alleged attempt to enter Robredo's condo unit.

"He's a number 2 man in the department. That's his duty to see to it that the records of the department are retrieved from whomsoever is in possession, especially if the head of the department is dead," Enrile said.

The House of Representatives also wants to investigate Puno, particularly his alleged involvement in a firearms deal for the Philippine National Police amounting to almost P1 billion.

Leni Robredo: Jesse told me everything

Robredo's widow, Leni, and their youngest daughter Jillian took a bus from Naga to Manila last Saturday to be with her two other daughters Aika and Tricia.

It has been nearly a month since his husband died, but she continues to be hounded by journalists.

This time, it's about her late husband's investigation into Puno.

She said Jesse told her everything.

"He shared it with me in confidence, iyung feeling ko na mahahalaga na alam ko pinaabot ko na iyon sa mga taong dapat naka-alam," she said.

"Iyung palagay kong magma-matter, kinuwento ko na sa staff," she added.

Leni said all of Jesse's work papers, including those pertaining to the investigation, have been turned over to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

"Lahat ng work-related papers kunin na nila sa bahay. Ni-request ko yon kay de Lima, staff ni Jess kasama niya, so I don't have to do anything with it anymore. I have my hands full sa mga bata," she said.

Trust in Aquino

In a text message Monday, Leni said she trusts the President's decision to remove puno from the DILG.

She believes there was no foul play in the death of her husband.

Leni also said she is satisfied with the explanations of Jesse's aide, Senior Insp. Jun Abrazado, who survived the plane crash.

"Ang sabi niya sa akin, 'alam mo ma'am, nung pabulusok ang eroplano, kay sir, wala lang, hingi pa siya ng hingi ng documents, kasi nagbabasa siya, kaya nasa lap niya ang bag, kasi naghahanap ng dokumento,'" she said.

"Masaya ako sa kuwento niya kasi hindi siya takot sa crash," she added.

Leni said she has talked to Abrazado several times, and their latest conversation happened last Friday.

"Sabi niya, 'ako nalang magpapatuloy ng devotion ni Sir,'" she said. "Part rin ito ng healing process niya." - with ANC