(UPDATE) — President Benigno Aquino admitted that he ordered DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno to secure the office of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, shortly after Robredo died in a plane crash last month. However, he did not order Puno to go to Robredo’s condo. – The World Tonight, ANC, September 8, 2012
Puno tried to search Robredo condo, office
Source: The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – A day after Jesse Robredo was declared missing in a plane crash, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno and several police officers tried to enter Robredo’s condominium unit in Quezon City, apparently in search of documents.
An ABS-CBN News report the other night, quoting a source, said Robredo’s house-help did not allow Puno and his companions to enter the unit, and alerted Robredo’s wife Leni of the search attempt.
Two days later, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima gave instructions to her staff to secure the condominium unit where confidential documents were reportedly kept.
Puno did not answer calls from The STAR yesterday.
ABS-CBN reported last night that Robredo was investigating two planned procurements of assault rifles worth P178 million and P213 million involving Puno for the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF).
A report by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on the planned purchase was among the documents in Robredo’s condominium unit at the time of his death, ABS-CBN reported, adding that Puno received a copy of the report on Aug. 8.
The unit is located at 20 Lansbergh Place on Tomas Morato in Quezon City.
The ABS-CBN report said Supt. Oliver Tanseco, deputy senior police assistant in the DILG, was able to reach the penthouse of the condominium building while Puno and several others waited outside.
After being denied entry, Tanseco called Robredo’s lawyer to ask permission, but the lawyer also turned them down because the group did not have a search warrant, the report said.
Based on the building’s security logbook, the group arrived at the condominium at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19.
Aside from Puno and Tanseco, also listed in the logbook were Sr. Supt. Joel Pagdilao and a certain Apollo Reuben Toganon.
Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman said she was with Leni Robredo when the latter received a call from her maid informing her of the request of Puno’s group to enter the condo unit.
“They said they will take pictures of things inside the premises. But the staff of Robredo instead instructed Puno’s group to secure a search warrant before they could enter the area,” a source said.
On the same day, the group also reportedly tried to enter Robredo’s offices at the DILG and at the National Police Commission (Napolcom) in Makati City, the ABS-CBN report said.
Based on the logbook at Napolcom, the group arrived at around 11 a.m.
“Noong pumunta si Usec. Puno, pinigil, kaya tumawag sa akin. Hindi naman alam ng guwardiya kung bakit nagpunta doon si Usec. Puno (When Usec Puno arrived he was stopped so he called me. The guard didn’t know why Puno was there),” said Napolcom vice chair Eduardo Escueta.
When told yesterday of Puno’s alleged attempt to enter Robredo’s condo unit, De Lima said she didn’t know what documents Puno’s group was looking for.
“I don’t have that report because I’m just heeding the request of Mrs. Robredo. It was just a request of Mrs. Robredo to secure whatever documents were in the condominium,” said De Lima.
She said she was not privy to information or any details about Puno’s action.
She said her department is unlikely to handle any investigation into the incident.
Robredo’s widow Leni said a group of men had indeed tried to enter their condo unit in Quezon City, prompting her to request De Lima’s help in securing the place.
“That’s true. Our helper called me up through phone last Aug. 19 and informed me that there were men who would like to get inside our condo. At the time, (Social Welfare Secretary) Dinky Soliman was beside me, so I asked for her help,” Leni said in an interview over radio dzMM.
She noted that she did know who the men were. She stressed that the documents were not with the Justice secretary.
“If there are sensitive documents in our place, I feel people there will not be safe if these men will keep on coming to our place,” she added.
She admitted not having seen any documents in the condo unit.
“Perhaps, at one point in the future I will check what are those documents,” she said.
Meanwhile, Jun Lavadia, a close friend of Robredo, said the late DILG chief was investigating an alleged anomaly in the procurement of bullets for members of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
In a telephone interview, Lavadia said the probe came after a group of police officers met with Robredo seeking the help of the DILG chief in digging deeper into the matter.
“I was at his (Robredo’s) office about last week of July or first week of August when the police officer came to see the DILG secretary. They told him they will execute affidavit about it,” Lavadia added.
A police officer told The STAR that under the PNP’s P40-million bullet procurement program, police regional offices would be given funds so they could make their own procurement.
Malacañang, meanwhile, declined to discuss the incident involving Puno, but confirmed Robredo was undertaking “very sensitive investigations” before his death last Aug.18.
“But I will not comment on the specifics of what was being investigated or who,” Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang said in an ambush interview.
“I think it will eventually come out but for the moment, I will not comment on these investigations because many of them are in a very sensitive stage,” he added.
He also said he was not sure if Puno’s attempt to enter Robredo’s condo unit had anything to do with President Aquino’s order to secure the documents in the late secretary’s office.
“I’m not prepared to comment on that at this point,” Carandang said.
Asked if there is an internal investigation involving Puno, Carandang said: “There were many investigations being conducted by DILG at the time of Secretary Robredo’s death and I’m not in a position to comment on the specifics.”
Puno himself has not been publicly seen or heard from since Thursday when the incident was first reported.
This was not the first time Puno hit the headlines since President Aquino appointed him to the DILG on July 5, 2010.
Puno, a shooting buddy of the President, first made the headlines when he admitted to have entertained emissaries from jueteng lords a few days after his appointment.
The controversy resulted in a short-lived inquiry but no legal action was taken against Puno.
In August, Puno again found himself in the middle of a controversy after the bloody hostage-taking crisis at the Luneta grandstand on Aug. 23, 2010, during which eight Hong Kong tourists were killed and several others wounded.
It was at that time that the public learned about President Aquino’s “special instruction” that Robredo’s power was limited to the local government while Puno was in charge of the PNP. With Cecille Suerte Felipe, Alexis Romero, Sandy Araneta