MANILA, Philippines - The rift between the 2 highest-ranking officials of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has pushed President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to be at his “wit’s end.”
Nonetheless, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and Undersecretary Rico Puno merely ended up being admonished but with the caveat that any wrong move would spell the end of their careers in the administration.
In his initial statement, Aquino said: “I have also admonished Secretary Robredo and Undersecretary Puno for failing to uphold the high standards of performance that I demand from them. I sat them down last night. The outcome was a commitment for more professionalism, starting with their acting as one.”
In a press conference later, Aquino blamed the squabbling between the 2 on “miscommunication or lack of communication.”
Puno earlier claimed that 5 groups, including 1 led by Robredo himself, were out to get him off the DILG.
Both had refused to discuss what the squabbling was all about.
Despite all these, Aquino decided to stick to both officials. He said their credentials, including each of their successes, saved their skins this time.
Robredo, for example, should be commended for his part in the resettlement of squatters.
“The question is, should I remove him [then]?” he asked.
The same goes for Puno, even if he was part of those investigated in connection to the botched hostage negotiations last August 23.
The hostage crisis ended in the death of 8 Hong Kong tourists and the gunman himself.
The Palace legal team that reviewed the report of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) merely cited the DILG official for his “lapse of judgment and poor performance.”
Puno acted as the President’s liaison during the crisis, keeping him abreast of the situation on the ground.
Aquino said there was a lack of provision in the crisis manual that would be made as an anchor for filing possible charges against Puno.
“The manual does not contain a provision [such as] ‘at this point, the situation is elevated to the national government,” he said.
He denied his close relationship with Puno had anything to do with his decision.
“The people [who were with us in the meeting] saw how exasperated I was…This is their last chance,” Aquino said.