Fishers to oppose Puno’s transfer to agriculture department

THE fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) today said they will oppose the transfer of former local and interior government undersecretary Rico Puno to the Department of Agriculture (DA), warning President Benigno Simeon Aquino III that the Filipino public fed of government officials with checkered records and shady past will move heaven and earth to frustrate the grand entry of the controversial official to agriculture agency.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said his group will immediately submit an opposition paper to the 124-member of the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) once the President officially made Puno’s designation as undersecretary of DA.

“In fact, one of the staff is now drafting the opposition paper to Puno’s appointment to DA and will be ready for submission to CA in case Aquino designate him to DA portfolio as one of its undersecretaries,” the fisherfolk official said.

France added: “Mr. Puno is implicated in several big time sins of corruption. He is being investigated for alleged PNP fire arms deal, then there’s this Jueteng scandal and so on and so forth. How come Mr. Aquino wants to accommodate Mr. Puno to his government. What is so special about this guy? Giving Mr. Puno another break as agriculture official is direct affront to millions of farmers and fisherfolk all over the country.”

In a TV interview yesterday, agriculture secretary Proceso Alcala said the department will welcome Aquino’s appointment of Puno, assuring the former undersecretary of DILG that he would get the support of all officials and employees of the agriculture department.

Secretary Alcala made the statement in response to unverified report that the President would soon assign Puno to one of the vacant positions at the agriculture department.

“The DA which gained notoriety for blockbuster crime of corruption during the former administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will repeat the same old story with the transfer of Puno, a close presidential friend linked to shady deals and first-rate crimes of corruption at DILG under the term of President Aquino,” added France.

During Arroyo’s term, Pamalakaya had uncovered a P 455-million scam in connection with the purchase of 98 units of ice-making machines on September 2011. The group claimed that it was overpriced by 100 percent and the DA has yet to complete the delivery of the ice-making equipments.

The alleged corruption prompted Pamalakaya and the party list group Anakpawis party list to file plunder charges against former President Arroyo, former agriculture secretary and now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap and other officials of the National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) before the Office of the Ombudsman. The case is still pending before the Ombudsman.

The Pamalakaya official endorsed the proposal of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago to investigate Puno regarding the raid done on the condominium unit of former DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo.

France likewise appealed to senator lawmakers allied with President Aquino to cross party lines and allow the investigation in aid of legislation. Likewise, the Pamalakaya official said, Malacanang should declare a ban on Puno from being appointed to any government post.

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