Why let President Benigno Aquino’s friend Rico E. Puno so easily off the hook?
Lawmakers on Sunday criticized the decision to halt a planned probe in the House of Representatives into a P1-billion firearms deal for the Philippine National Police and the role in it of Puno, who resigned on Monday as undersecretary at the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Zambales Representative Ma. Milagros Magsaysay, a minority member, said the cancellation of the inquiry was a blow against transparency and was meant to make the issue against Puno, a presidential shooting-range buddy, die down.
“They want to nip the issue in the bud by ordering allies to bury it and hopefully it won’t stick in the people’s mind,” Magsaysay said.
“Daang matuwid (The straight path) is a myth,” she said, referring to the President’s oft-repeated catchphrase of his reform program.
“The stoppage of the Congress hearings is a clear sign that this administration doesn’t want the truth to come out and [wants to] to protect the alleged shenanigans happening. The people have been misled into believing that this administration is for transparency and accountability,” she said.
But even members of the House majority think the hearings must go on.
Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat Jr. of the Liberal Party said the investigation should delve deeper into the issues involving the PNP transactions to show that people close to the President were not being treated with kid gloves.
“To ensure that there’s no iota of doubt about the impartiality of the administration on a perceived P-Noy (President Aquino) friend, the probe must go on until the issues are thoroughly discussed,” Baguilat said. Corruption allegations must not be taken lightly, he said.
Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño said one Senate hearing was not enough to put closure to the issues.
Other experts who played no part in the firearms transaction, such as the Commission on Audit and the Government Procurement Policy Board, must be consulted as well about the explanations offered by the officials involved in the bidding process, Casiño said.
The House probe, earlier requested by Agham Representative Angelo Palmones and Antipolo Representative Romeo Acop, was supposed to center on the alleged irregularities in the PNP’s arms purchases.