Press Release
September 10, 2012

Transcript of interview with Senator Santiago

On this Friday's scheduled Senate hearing on the evaluation of the DILG Undersecretary Rico E. Puno

I don't need to file a resolution because I am the chair of the committee. If I were asking some other committee with some other chair, I would have to file a resolution.

Today we already sent out notices of hearing to our committee members, and we have already sent out invitations to a long list of persons. If they fail to attend on Friday, I will have to issue subpoenas to them. The difference is an invitation is discretionary, but a subpoena is compulsory. If they don't appear in the second hearing, then the committee will have the power to recommend that they should be cited for contempt. If that is the case, warrants of arrest will be issued against them.

Is Atty. Leni Robredo exempt from the subpoena?

Yes. Once we hold the first hearing, I'll check who are present. Those who are absent will be automatically sent subpoenas except Archbishop Cruz and Atty. Leni Robredo because they are not directly involved and they are not public officials.

Ano ang mga mismong itatanong o mga gusto ninyong makuha?

First of all, the question will be--the question uppermost in the minds of most Filipinos, particularly in Metro Manila today--why, reportedly, the President instructed Usec. Puno to secure or lockdown the documents of the late Sec. Robredo. If that is the case, that meant that he should go, for example, to the DILG office of the secretary, to the same office of the secretary in the Napolcom, and the office of the same secretary in Camp Crame. Those are basically the three offices where the DILG secretary rotates. So all you have to do--as the term implies--when you are ordered to lockdown is to lock the room and assume responsibility for the keys. But, reportedly, President Aquino never mentioned that he should go to the house as well, but that's what Usec. Puno did.

The first question is: Why did you have to go to the house when nobody told you to go there? Your superior--the President--did not request you to go; nobody--as far as I can tell--requested him to go. So what was he doing there? What was so urgent that he has to go himself? What were the documents he wanted to get his hands on? Otherwise, if the order is simply a lockdown, he was just trying, let us say, to be extraneous, only to be safe--meaning to say, I will go even if I was not assigned, just to be safe. Why did he have to ask the maid to go inside? If you lockdown, you just ask the maid "Is there anybody there inside?" or otherwise observe if she's being held hostage if there were people there. Otherwise, there is no point going there. If it is just a lockdown, you turn the key, then you post your sentries there, and nobody can get there. The question is What is he so afraid of that he himself get to have personal possession outside the orders to him by President Aquino.

Do you see any irregularities for now?

Of course. He was acting ultra vires--outside his authority. Furthermore, when the maid presumably telephoned Mrs. Robredo in Naga if Usec. Puno could be allowed inside, apparently, Mrs. Robredo ordered the maid not to allow Usec. Puno inside. That means that, if we are allowed to draw conclusions, Mrs. Robredo does not trust Mr. Puno. This attitude could only have stemmed from her husband's own attitude. Otherwise, since she is not a member of the DILG, what is the basis that she did not want Usec. Puno inside the house at all? Besides, Usec. Puno is guilty of plain discourtesy or unethical conduct. It would have been very easy to get on the phone with Mrs. Robredo in Naga and ask, "Can I have permission to go there?".

What do you think of the president defending Usec. Puno's actions?

Maybe the president is not defending Mr. Puno, but is just trying to assuage or protect the backers of Usec. Puno.

Who are these backers?

I'm going to try and draw that out or tease that out during the hearing, but now I can't because I may be accused of unfair allegations without any evidence.

Are they from the Liberal Party?

Not necessarily.

Samar or Balay?

It's not political motivation we are talking about. I think it is just corruption.

Based on the guest list, will you also tackle other matters because you also invited DENR Sec. Paje and Archbishop Cruz?

I will look into all the controversies that have surrounded Usec. Puno ever since he took office.

Why include Sec. Paje?

That is because of the question of illegal logging.

And Archbishop Cruz for jueteng?

That's right.

The president said that he will give another position to Usec. Puno if he gets out of the DILG any position of his choice.

Wow. For me that's an extravagant statement. Right now the Senate has no basis for making up its mind. 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. Plus, 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.

Do you have initial information on why Usec. Puno attempted to enter Sec. Robredo's house?

Hindi naman siya sports climber or house burglar, so bakit siya nandoon? Iyan ang pagtatanong, kaya nga gusto nating malaman. Plus, the major question is: Under the Administrative Code, it is the Secretary who has control of the department, and the usual practice of the president to appoint an undersecretary to a certain area of the department, so it is correct to appoint him undersecretary for peace and security, just as there is an undersecretary for local government. I have no objections to that. But I want to know: Is it true that in practice, peace and security--meaning to say the Philippine National Police--was not only delegated to Usec. Puno, but was actually exclusive to him, to the exclusion of his own Secretary. That would become very anomalous.

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