'Puno controversies may have closed doors to new post'

Posted at 09/12/2012 4:28 PM | Updated as of 09/12/2012 4:28 PM

MANILA - Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said on Wednesday resigned Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno may find it hard to work in another capacity again under the current administration.

De Lima said this is because the long-time Presidential friend has found himself in hot water for several controversies already.

"It will not be prudent on my part to preempt any decision either of the President or Usec. Puno... but given all these, siguro naman mahihirapan na rin si Usec. Puno na i-consider another government post," she pointed out.

De Lima believes, however, that Aquino should be accorded his prerogative to appoint Puno to another government post, while Puno has the option whether to accept the appointment.

The justice chief welcomed Puno's resignation in the wake of mounting calls for him to step down following his alleged attempt to raid the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo's offices and condominium unit following Robredo's plane's crash in Masbate City last August 18. 

Puno was allegedly in search of sensitive documents which may include those pertaining to investigations on him for supposed illegal activities.

De Lima said Puno's resignation will not only give incoming Interior chief Mar Roxas the free hand in the selection of people who will be working closely with him, it is also the prudent thing to do amid the controversies.

"Kasi nga itong mga agam agam na ito, itong mga espekulasyon na ito... he is again the center of all these. Tama lang (Puno's resignation)," De Lima said.

Puno only watched while I secured Robredo offices, condo

De Lima confirmed Puno's claim that both she and him were present during the sealing and securing of Robredo's DILG, Camp Crame, and Napolcom offices on Aug. 19, a day after the crash. She, however, denied that Puno was also present when she secured Robredo's condominium unit contrary to Puno's pronouncement.

Based on her account, she arrived first at Robredo's offices; Puno arrived "several minutes after." She said he never mentioned he was there upon the orders of Pres. Aquino who had recently announced it was he who directed Puno to secure Robredo's files.

Malacañan had announced it was Puno, not De Lima, who was ordered by Mr. Aquino to secure Robredo's offices and files. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said De Lima went to Robredo's offices "on her own."

However, based on De Lima's account, it was she, not Puno, who was doing the sealing and securing of Robredo's offices. Puno merely watched, she said.

"Sa condo, he wasn't there when I was there. Pero yung sa offices -- DILG, Napolcom, Camp Crame -- nagmonitor siya pero hindi siya nakialam... he was just monitoring and he did not interfere... na-monitor niya how I sealed the offices and secured the documents," she said.

This is the first time for De Lima to admit that Puno was present at the time she was securing Robredo's offices and files. Asked why she never mentioned this in her past interviews and only did when Puno already pointed it out, De Lima said: "I just felt there was no need to mention that." 

Puno was among several officials investigated by De Lima and Robredo for the bloody Aug. 23, 2010 hostage taking in Manila that left several Kong Kong tourists dead. Their panel recommended that he be charged administratively with gross negligence, and that he be investigated for possible criminal liability. Malacañan, in its highly criticized review, overturned these recommendations.

Prior to Robredo's death, he was reportedly investigating Puno for an alleged anomalous arms deal and involvement in alleged illegal logging activities, among others.

Puno resigned last Friday; his resignation was accepted by Pres. Aquino on Tuesday.