MIRIAM TO PUNO: WHY ONLY NOW?

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a former RTC judge, questioned the motives of DILG undersecretary Rico Puno in apparently withholding information about alleged attempts by jueteng fixers to influence him, and in revealing the information only a few days ago, when media began to focus on him

“If it is true that he has been approached by jueteng fixers, why did he not kick and scream immediately?  Those fixers who allegedly contacted him are guilty of the crime of corruption of public officials,” Santiago said.

Santiago said that Puno’s press statement on the alleged fixers was already an admission of the truth that there is a resurgence of illegal interest in jueteng.

“One factual issue is whether Puno listened in silence to the propositions of fixers.  If so, his conduct is remiss, because he should have alerted the national police on the identities and addresses of the fixers so that they could be arrested before they could resume jueteng in their localities,” she said.

Santiago added that it was “improper and questionable” for Puno to keep to himself the many overtures on jueteng he claims to have received.

“The basic factual issue is whether he merely listened in silence, or whether he accepted the proposals, and edited the facts so as to escape personal criminal liability,” she said.

Years ago, as a freshman senator, Santiago practiced what she preached when she revealed in plenary session that immediately after her election, a number of fixers went to her office and offered her kickbacks for every public works project under her pork barrel funds.

At that time, Santiago’s report was confirmed by then Sen. Juan Flavier, who also said that he received similar offers from building contractors, after he was elected.

Santiago recently filed a resolution for the Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate allegations by retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz that certain personalities close to President Aquino are actively participating or receiving monthly “kickbacks” from jueteng operators.

“I support Msgr. Cruz in his crusade.  If his word were to be taken against the word of Puno, I will accept Msgr. Cruz anytime.  He was a respected professor at the Maryhill School of Theology when I took my masters there,” Santiago said.

Santiago is on sick leave for chronic fatigue, but told media she would try to attend the Blue Ribbon hearings scheduled for next week.

“However, I have an energy window of less than an hour.  So my presence will be iffy,” she said.

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