MANILA – Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago wasn't satisfied with the answers given by resigned Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno in Friday’s probe on his involvement in the illegal numbers game “jueteng” and the PNP firearms bidding process.
After the hearing, Santiago told reporters that she found Puno’s responses to her queries illogical.
“While I appreciate his presence here—because in effect we are offering him a chance to clear his name—his answers were at best fudged. Hindi ko mahuli ang lohika ng pinagsasabi niya,” she said.
Santiago grilled Puno over his involvement in the bidding process for the Philippine National Police's (PNP) weapons deals.
Puno said he was a mere “observer” during the bidding process and had asked permission from the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo in a meeting to “sit-in” during the process.
“I asked him verbally, I told him that I would be sitting as an observer,” Puno said.
Puno claimed that he had “special functions to see to it that every bidding is transparent and it is followed.”
Puno also denied that he was invited by a gun supplier to visit its factory during his trip to Israel, saying he was on vacation with his family.
He admitted going to a gun supplier in Israel, but only to shoot some rounds at their firing range.
“I saw a good friend, Ret. Gen. [Emelito] Santiago, at the airport and sabi niya, ‘Baka gusto mo sumama sa amin dito, we’ll just shoot some rifles.’ Being an enthusiast myself, I joined him one day lang,” he said.
Puno added that there was no ocular inspection conducted at the factory.
He admitted that his consultant at the DILG, Ramiro Lopez, who at times represented him at the bidding process for the PNP weapons, was with him in Israel, but noted that Lopez was also on vacation and paid for his own ticket.
At that point, Santiago said: “My goodness, you are testing my level of belief with your assertions.”
Santiago also asked Puno about his alleged involvement in “jueteng,” which the former undersecretary denied.
Puno was grilled by Santiago after he said he has no knowledge on “protection money” from the illegal game.
“You can sit there with a serious face and tell me that no one accepts protection money? But very obviously, there is somebody, we cannot name who is protecting this scandal because it is proliferating at a fast clip throughout the country, ganoon ba ang gusto mo ipaintindi sa amin?” Santiago asked.
After the hearing, Santiago said she will no longer file a recommendation against Puno because she believes she will not get the support of Malacañang and the other senators.
However, she noted that she has already drawn her own conclusions from Puno’s statements.
“I’ve already drawn my conclusions. As a former RTC [Regional Trial Court] judge, at my age, 67, I can already draw conclusions from what I already heard and this should be entered into the record of the committee,” she said.
Santiago said the probe was initiated because it was “essential for me to determine whether the administrative code and the DILG act should be reexamined or perhaps revised.”
“Under the administrative code, the secretary has full control and supervision. Control is the power to modify, nullify, and set aside the decision of a subordinate. Supervision simply means the power to see to it that your subordinates are obeying the law. Ngayon ang sabi ng administrative code, there should be an undersecretary for Peace and Order without specifying whether he has control or supervision or none at all over the agencies that fall under his competence or under his jurisdiction. Kailangan bang palitan yan?” she said.
Santiago also said she has no ill feelings toward the members of her committee who did not attend the hearing.
“Hindi naman, kasi pulitika ‘yan eh, eh ako wala na akong political future. Pag tinawag na ako ng ICC [International Criminal Court], wala na ako dito. Eh sila meron pa, gusto nilang tumkalbo sa 2016 o kaya mayroon silang kamag-anak na tatakbo, kaya kinakailangan na they get on the good side of the administration,” she said. -- With reports from Ryan Chua, ANC