Robredo probing Puno on arms deal before crash

From an exclusive report by Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 07 2012 06:47 PM | Updated as of Sep 08 2012 08:54 AM

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Prior to his fatal plane crash last August 18, Jesse Robredo was investigating the procurement of high-powered rifles which involved Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno.

ABS-CBN News was able to secure a copy of the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) report on the planned purchase of assault rifles by the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force that involved two procurements of nearly P178 million and P213 million.

The documents show that Robredo received the report on August 8, less than two weeks before the fatal plane crash off Masbate.

ABS-CBN News sources said this report is among the sensitive documents that were in Robredo's condominium unit at the time of his death.

This is the same condo unit that Puno and some police officials allegedly tried to access on August 19, a day after the plane crash.

Robredo's condo

Robredo's wife, Atty. Maria Leonor, confirmed that she was told of Puno's attempt to enter the condo unit.

“’Yung kasambahay namin sa Manila, naiwan doon sa bahay kasi nag-uwian na rin ‘yung mga anak ko. Tumawag siya nu’ng August 19, nagsasabing may mga tao, hindi naman niya sinabi kung sino. May mga tatlo raw na gustong pumasok at may hinihingi na mga papeles. Nagtatanong siya sakin kung papasukin niya. So ang sabi ko po ay hindi. Tamang-tama katabi ko naman si [DSWD] Sec. Dinky [Soliman] at nagpatulong po ako,” Robredo’s wife said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, meanwhile, said she was unaware of Puno's actions.

However, she confirmed that Robredo's wife asked her to secure the documents.

Robredo probing Puno on arms deal before crash 1Malacañang has refused to comment on the issue for now, but sources said President Aquino also has a copy of the DILG report.

“What I can confirm is that before his death, Secretary Robredo was conducting a number of very sensitive investigations. But I will not comment on the specifics of what was being investigated or who. I think lalabas din 'yan,” said Secretary Ricky Carandang of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.

Cop denies 'raid'

In an interview with dzMM on Friday, Supt. Oliver Tanseco denied that Puno and several cops tried to access Robredo's condominium unit and offices to conduct a raid.

Tanseco, who was tagged as one of the policemen who accompanied Puno in the alleged raid, said they went to Robredo’s condo and offices under instructions from the President.

Tanseco said President Aquino ordered a lockdown to ensure that confidential documents are secured and Robredo’s belongings will not be lost.

Weapons deal

There is no indication that Puno may have been after the DILG report, but the report shows that the documents may implicate Puno in the alleged anomalous arms deal.

The document shows that Puno travelled to Israel upon the invitation of weapons manufacturer Israel Military Industries (IMI).

Puno was accompanied by former Special Action Forces Chief Leocadio Santiago, Reynaldo Espineli, owner of a defense and security company, and Puno's consultant, Ramiro Lopez III.

Lopez is said to have accompanied Puno when the undersecretary went to Robredo's office at the National Police Commission a day after the plane crash.

The DILG report says Puno's group left for Israel on May 10, the same date of the second pre-bid conference for the purchase of short firearms.

It cites a possible conflict of interest since Puno and Lopez were both members of the bids and awards committee.

Espineli and IMI won the bid for assault rifles out of seven bidders.

The report also says specifications of the assault rifles seem to have been amended to favor a particular bidder.

Robredo initially sought a review of the price for the assault rifles.

But while the bidding process was suspended, Robredo still wanted to hold some officials accountable for pushing for the deal.

ABS-CBN News again tried to get the side of Puno and Espineli on the firearms deal but both declined to comment. -- With reports from Edwin Sevidal, dzMM; ANC