Failure to pursue Puno probe a grandslam betrayal of public trust – group

THE fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday told lawmakers that failure to pursue  the investigation of  former Interior and Local Government Secretary Rico Puno over alleged involvement in overpriced fire arms deal, illegal gambling operations and other mysterious dealings is” a wholesale remiss of duty and grandslam betrayal of public trust.”

The group said investigating Puno is not a waste of time but a call of duty among elected officials of the government.

The group issued the statement in reaction to Agham party list Rep. Angelo Palmones and Cebu Rep. Pablo John Garcia announcement that the House of Representatives would no longer push through with the investigation of questionable procurement of fire arms for the Philippine National Police (PNP) after reviewing the proceedings of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of laws and codes chaired by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.The controversial contract was already shelved by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.

Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said: “How can it be a waste of time? We are probing here one of the most sinister and corrupt public officials of the Republic and that is a calling. Palmones, Garcia and other cohorts of Aquino in the House of Representatives clearly violated the fundamental and constitutional rights of the people to know the real score on a man perceived to be one of the most influential and powerful government officials in the Aquino administration.

“The decision of the Liberal Party controlled House of Representatives to terminate the probe and the lukewarm response of the Senate on Puno’s involvement to highly questionable activities as DILG undersecretary are tantamount to betrayal of public trust in the name of an Aquino ally. This is not acceptable,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

France said lawmakers from both houses of Congress should cross party lines and pursue the investigation, noting that public interest is a major stake in uncovering the wroingdoings of a government official in aid of legislation.

” Is Mr. Puno a sacred cow here. Is he the man the behind the Aquino presidency? How come nobody wants to grill him and discover the real score on jueteng scandal, on overpriced firearms and other syndicated activities at the department of interior and local agency? We will remember the names and the faces of lawmakers who refused to flesh out the truth because of their political honeymoon and flirtation in Malacanang. Let us see how all of them will fare in the 2013 elections,”the militant leader said.

“There is still enough time for a change of heart for the sake of truth, justice and accountability. We appeal to senators and congressmen to make a gallant stand in the of public interest and accountability. The former undersecretary of the DILG is being investigated on triple platinum acts of corruption in connection with numbers game scandal, fire arms deal and other anomalous activities. Please pursue and cooperate with the probe.Please be reminded that public interest compels you to do your job as senators of the Republic,” the group said.

“The Puno case should not be treated as first day last day movie that bombed at the box-office. The general public has big stake here and the probe must be pursued in the name of national interest and the people’s fight against corruption, political patronage abuse of power,” the group added.

“We will not accept this kind of political default. We hope to see senators in a next hearing digging deeper into the involvement of undersecretary Puno on corruption issues including but not limited to jueteng and fire arms deal,” said Pamalakaya.

The group also assailed Malacanang from preventing four cabinet officials to testify in the Senate hearing sponsored by the committee of Sen. Santiago.

The militant group said Malacanang invoked the notorious Eexecutive Order 464 used by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to prevent four cabinet members—environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, newly installed interior and local government chief Mar Roxas and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. from attending the hearing.

The group said the attendance of Puno in Friday’s hearing at the Senate and the absence of senator allies and cabinet members of President Aquino was meant to humiliate Sen. Santiago and her committee. Pamalakaya last week announced they will oppose the reported transfer of Puno to Department of Agriculture, as undersecretary for livestock sector.

The group hinted that Puno at the agriculture department will revive the dark past and career of former DA undersecretary Jocelyn (Joc-joc) Bolante who figured in the fertilizer fund scam and other irregularities in the department under Macapagal-Arroyo administration.

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