Probe on Puno still on, says Santiago

Jonathan de Santos
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

He may have resigned, but now-resigned Local Government undersecretary Rico Puno will still have to appear before the Senate over his attempt to enter the late DILG secretary Jesse Robredo's condominium.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Puno must face the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws as it holds a hearing on the "Evaluation of the DILG Undersecretary Rico E. Puno Event, under the Administrative Code and the 1990 DILG Act, as amended by the 1998 Police Reform Act" on Friday morning.

"If he does not appear, our procedure here is to issue him now a compulsory subpoena, which attaches a criminal liability to any person who does not obey the subpoena," Santiago told reporters Tuesday afternoon. She said that resignation or retirement does not absolve a public official liability "for any misdeeds during his term of office."

Among those invited to the Friday hearing are retired archbishop Oscar Cruz and Maria Leonor Gerona Robredo, the late secretary's widow. She has declined the invitation, however, saying she is still in mourning.

Santiago said she will ask Atty. Robredo to send the Senate copies of documents that were handed to her for safekeeping or to at least give a summary of what the documents say. If Atty. Robredo refuses, Santiago said the Senate will respect that and "just try to acquire the information from other sources."

Cruz has meanwhile been invited as a resource speaker on whether the illegal numbers game jueteng "has been abated or even diminished slightly during the incumbency of undersecretary Puno who was the immediate superior over the Philippine National Police."

Puno had been among the names in a list Cruz submitted to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee during hearings on jueteng in 2010. Puno, along with former national police chief Jesus Verzosa, were described in Cruz's list as the "ultimate recipients" of jueteng money. Both denied this as did local government officials named in Cruz's list.

Asked by reporters whether Puno will have to explain about his supposed involvement in jueteng, Santiago said: "Oh, yes. We'll rake him over the coals."

The senator, meanwhile, said Puno's resignation should not be considered a move made out of delicadeza. She said Puno had no choice except to resign.

"He should have done it earlier, then he would have become the poster boy for delicadeza. But he hung in there until the President was compelled to announce his replacement," she said.