MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said he still has confidence in embattled Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno amid allegations he is 1 of those on the payola of jueteng lords.
On the sidelines of the inauguration of the 42.5-megawatt Sibulan Hydropower plant in Davao, Aquino said “well, that’s 1 aspect…but at this time, I still have confidence in him. I’ll talk to him as soon as I get back to Manila. I’ll ask him about all these allegations and what his responses are.”
Aquino did not explain further.
Puno, whom Aquino placed in the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in charge of police before appointing Jesse Robredo as its chief, has recently been hounded by controversies.
ABS-CBN News sources alleged that he and newly retired Philippine National Police chief Jesus Verzosa receive as much as P5 million a month in jueteng payoffs.
Puno denied the allegations, but has already offered to resign from the post.
He earlier admitted, however, that jueteng lords have sent him feelers as to how they could proceed with the illegal numbers game.
He declined any meetings with the supposed jueteng lords out of fear that this would tarnish the image of the young administration.
Aquino doubts the authenticity of the news that recently came out with regard to jueteng profits.
“Isipin nga ninyo yung figure is P1 billion a year, the supposed profits from jueteng…Sabihin nating silang dalawa…that’s P10 million a month, P120 million a year, medyo malaking pera. Pero kung silang 2 ang protector nito, napakaliit naman yata nun dun sa [profits],” he said.
He said the allegations will remain as such until these are substantiated.
“Nasa batas, presumed innocent until proven guilty,” he said.
He noted there are reputations that have been ruined because of the allegations.
“Dito, hanapin natin, may base nga ba? May inatasan na ho tayo na tingnan yan at lutasing yang buong isyu ng jueteng,” he added, referring to Robredo.
Aquino dismissed accusations he has not been prioritizing the issue.
“Kapag sinabi ho nating programa, hindi lang ho yung magpakita tayo ng media event na may aarestuhing ilang kabo dito, ilang kolektor dyan, wala naman hong ititigil sa problema. [Ang issue] pano ba natin maisasama buong lipunan sa laban na ito,” he said.