BY ELLEN TORDESILLAS
‘Santiago’s sarcasm failed to rattle Puno who replied: “I will tell him.” Clearly Puno was lying.’
It’s adding insult to injury with the way he protected Rico Puno, his shooting buddy whom he appointed undersecretary in the Department of Interior and Local Government. He accepted Puno’s resignation last Sept. 11.
The House of Representatives spared the public another farce by dropping the planned investigation on the alleged overpriced purchase of firearms for the Philippine National Police and the conflicting versions of Puno’s role in securing the documents on the deal, which included a report questioning his trip to Israel to visit the manufacturing plant of one of the bidders, the Israeli Military Industries.
If Puno was able to get away with stonewalling Sen. Miriam Santiago, chair of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments and Revision of Laws, who conducted the hearing, the congressmen are not expected to fare better when it comes to ferreting out the truth. They won’t dare antagonize Malacañang.
At least with Santiago, she was able to show the public how incredible Puno’s story about his trip to Israel last May which would have been a grounds for him to be charged with violation of the Republic Act 6713, Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Employees which states: “Public officials and employees shall not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office.”
In the Aug. 8 memorandum by a group that the late Secretary Jesse Robredo assigned to investigate the purchase of nearly 60,000 handguns, it was mentioned that, Puno, together with former director of the PNP Special Action Force Leocadio Santiago, Ramiro Lopez III, an observer for the bids and awards committee, and Reynaldo Espinelli, president of R. Espinelli & Co., left the country on May 10 to accept the tour invitation of Israel Military Industries (IMI). Espineli is IMI’s local partner.
VERA Files had a story that IMI has been blacklisted by the Indian government for corruption.
The memorandum stated: “Bureau of Immigration records show the group left for Dubai (no direct flight to Israel) together on May 10, 2012 the date also of the 2nd pre-bid conference for the procurement of the 1,500 Assault Rifle 5.56 mm and returned on the same flight from Dubai on May 20,2012.
“Being an observer and resource person of the ongoing PNP NHQ bidding, such action has possible conflict of interest in the contract being bid out and might impair the integrity of the bidding process.”
At the Senate hearing, Puno, cool and inscrutable, said his trip to Israel was a family vacation to Jerusalem. He said he was on leave May 11 to 18, 2012.
So how come he was in the company of Santiago, Lopez and Espinelli to Tel-Aviv?
He said met Santiago at the airport, who invited him to a test firing of some rifles. ““Being an enthusiast myself, I joined him for one day only and I continued on.” He said.
What a pleasant coincidence!
Why would Santiago, a retired PNP officer, be test firing in the plant of a PNP potential supplier?
If it was a family vacation, why was Lopez, a BAC PNP observer, with him?
Puno’s tale: Lopez is his consultant and he does research on some items being procured by the PNP. He also arranges his trips.
He said Lopez paid for his own trip.
Miriam said: “Yayo siya ng pamilya mo? You are going on a private holiday and you are with your consultant? You are testing my level of belief with your assertions.”
Santiago sarcastically remarked that he should lend her Lopez next time she travels overseas. She likes a consultant who can buy his own ticket and look after her in her trips.
Santiago’s sarcasm failed to rattle Puno who replied: “I will tell him.”
Clearly Puno was lying.
Since Aquino does not say anything about sanctioning Puno (in fact he said he will be given another position), does it mean he believes Puno’s incredible story?
Pity the Filipino people.