Press Release
September 11, 2012

Transcript of interview with Senator Santiago

On DILG Usec. Rico Puno's resignation

His resignation does not relieve him of the obligation to appear at our public hearing here in the Senate on Friday morning. There is no precedent who retires or resigns from public office is automatically acquitted of any liability for any misdeeds during his term of office. So he will still have to appear. We already issued him a letter of invitation, and if he does not appear, then as I've said, the procedure here is issue him now a subpoena which attaches a criminal liability to any person who does not obey the subpoena. He still has to answer many questions in the mind of the public. Plus, he will now have to contend with the presence of the widow of his former boss who I understand will also be present on Friday (Atty. Leni Robredo has declined the invitation. See below. - Tom Tolibas)

He should have done it earlier. Then he would have become the poster boy for delicadeza. But he hung in there until the President is compelled to announce his replacement. When a replacement has been named, that means you have been overstaying your post and you're going to be kicked out by the seat of your pants.

On Usec. Puno's alleged involvement in jueteng activities

We have also invited Archbishop Cruz who has been the founder and still the leader of a crusade against jueteng, so we should have some empirical from the archbishop on whether jueteng has been abated or even been diminished even slightly in the incumbency of Usec. Puno who was the immediate superior over the PNP, and the PNP controls the jueteng activities in our country.

He was implicated in jueteng activities before.

Oh yes. We will rake him over the coals.

Do you see any implication of the resignation in the Senate hearing this Friday?

Why did he have to wait? No, there is no consequence at all, so far as the Senate is concerned. There are no legal consequences for us here in the Senate. He has to appear or we will put him in jail. He has to answer straight questions. He cannot flop his answers by engaging in general statements.

Is it possible that at the end of the hearing that there would be recommendations to file criminal charges against Mr. Puno?

Yes, definitely. We do that in the Senate all the time when it is justified by the evidence we receive. Evidence, as you know, can consist of hard evidence--meaning to say objects--or of testimonial evidence--meaning to say the testimony of the other resource persons whom we have invited.

Would you recommend Mr. Puno not given any new positions at the moment because of rumors that he will be transferred to another office anyway?

Very definitely. That would be a very big letdown on the part of the public and it will be like playing a shell game. Guess where the shell is? Abracadabra. Is it here or is it there? The public is not going to accept that anymore.

Suppose he will clear himself of all charges...?

If that is the case, if he would have cleared himself of all these charges, then he would already become a qualified nominee for any public office that the president offers to him, although that is not a necessary qualification, meaning to say it is not necessary for a person to clear his reputation. In his case, it becomes necessary because he has been in office for two years, and all these rumors began swirling around his head. They follow him like a swarm of mosquitoes. He has to slap them down one by one. And if he fails, he will fail abjectly in the public eye because the public will be given a chance on Friday to observe the demeanor of the witness. Observe that I am using a legal term. When the trial judge observes the demeanor of the witness, the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court will have no power to overturn the findings of the judge. So let him testify in front of the TV cameras of the Filipino public, so the public can observe the demeanor of Usec. Puno.

On Atty. Leni Robredo

I regret very much that I received a letter from an official of the DILG, apparently writing for Atty. Leni Robredo, saying that she has decided, even though she is a lawyer, not to accept the invitation to appear on Friday's public hearing on the grounds of the fact that she is still mourning the loss of her husband. That is for me unfortunate because she could have given us a factual account of what actually occurred in her condominium when Usec. Puno tried to enter it, and reportedly after the maid told her of the request, Mrs. Robredo turned down the request. We could have asked her why she turned it down, or we could have asked her why she thinks Usec. Puno did not go to the bother or courtesy of asking her for permission in a personal manner. Also, I shall try and see whether Mrs. Robredo might be willing to, if she cannot appear personally, to present, for the examination of the committee, the documents in her husband's apartment which were apparently turned over to her only recently, or even just the summary of what was contained in those documents. But if the answer is still negative, I am not going to issue a subpoena to her out of courtesy for the immense grief that surrounds her at this time. We will just try to acquire this information from other sources.

There could have been a lot of factual details provided by Mrs. Robredo of which we are left with no clue, except those that might be elicited from the resource persons--for example, what was the working relationship between her husband and the undersecretary. Normally we will know, even by casual comments made by our spouse in the intimacy of our own household. Or for example, what is her reaction to the fact that the undersecretary wanted to go to her apartment but did not bother to observe etiquette by asking her personally whether he could gain permission and instead barge in there and shock the maid half out of her wits by seeking to enter and eventually. Since Mrs. Robredo declined to give her permission, I would have wanted to ask why did she decline to give permission to no less than the undersecretary of her deceased husband if he was only going to try and secure the documents that seems to have been left on the desk of the secretary in his apartment. Plus, I would have wanted if she was willing, to examine the documents that were gathered from her husband's desk at her house in Quezon City, or at least submit a summary to us in the committee of what those notes are. Anyway, as I've said, there will be no dearth of evidence because we can unearth it from other sources.

Would you consider the late secretary's special assistant, the one who was said had helped prepare those reports?

I have here now the name of this person. She identifies herself as head executive assistant, so I guess the invitation that has been sent to Mrs. Robredo will now be abandoned and instead we'll issue a fresh invitation to this person. I think her name is Domina Ramces. Let us ask the executive assistant what she knows about the papers, not only inside the residence, but also in the office of the DILG secretary.

Please refer to the audio files in previous emails

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