[PHOTO -BRIEFING Incoming Transportation and Communications Secretary
Joseph Emilio Abaya (left) gets a feel of his new post from Manuel Roxas, the
new interior secretary. MARIANNE
MANILA, SEPTEMBER 6, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Marlon Ramos, Michael
Lim Ubac - President Benigno Aquino's shooting range buddy, Rico Puno, is
casting a shadow over Malacañang pronouncements that Manuel Roxas has full
control as the newly appointed secretary of the Department of the Interior and
Local Government (DILG).
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa told reporters that Puno, the powerful DILG
undersecretary in charge of police affairs in a power-sharing arrangement with
the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, was very much in the department.
"Up to now, he is still the undersecretary of the DILG," said Ochoa, officer
in charge of the DILG since the death on August 18 of Robredo in a plane crash.

"We don't know anything about that," said Ochoa when asked in an ambush
interview after addressing the 18th National Crime Prevention Week at Camp Crame
if Puno had stepped aside or been fired.
Asked about reports that Roxas planned to bring in a new team to the DILG,
Ochoa said: "I'm not the best person to be asked about it. But if he mentioned
it, that's probably in the ordinary course of business for somebody who will
lead an agency."
Puno, who was beside Ochoa during the event, declined to be interviewed.
A gun enthusiast, Puno disappeared from public view two months into the
Aquino presidency following the hostage-taking fiasco at Rizal Park on Aug. 23,
2010, that claimed the lives of eight Hong Kong tourists before international
television cameras.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda insisted in a news briefing Monday
that Roxas has full authority in the department, including law enforcement
Lacierda was asked if the responsibility of Roxas covered the Philippine
National Police, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Bureau of
Fire Prevention.
"To my understanding, yes," Lacierda replied. Asked if there would be a
unified command under Roxas, Lacierda said: "That is correct."
In text messages to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Budget Secretary Florencio
Abad said that Roxas would now occupy a "critical position," enjoying full
powers as alter ego of the President. "It is even made more powerful because of
the full trust and confidence of the President on Secretary Roxas," Abad said.

Resignation letter
Neither Lacierda nor Abad could say whether Puno had resigned following the
transfer of Roxas from the Department of Transportation and Communications
(DOTC) to the DILG as Robredo's successor.
"We have not received any official confirmation of that resignation letter.
We will ask the Office of the President about that matter," Lacierda said.
A Palace official, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak to
reporters, disclosed that Puno tendered his resignation about a month ago,
effective September 1.
Lacierda could not confirm speculation that Puno would be moved to the
Department of Agriculture, although the same Palace source believed that Puno
would be transferred to the Clark Development Authority.
The lack of clarity on exactly where Puno stands in the Aquino administration
underlines divisions in the administration. Puno and Ochoa are identified with
the "Samar" Group, a rival of the "Balay" faction under Roxas, referring to his
family residence in Quezon City used during the 2010 presidential campaign.
Appointment papers
The appointment papers of Roxas were submitted Monday to the bicameral
Commission on Appointments for confirmation, according to Lacierda and Ochoa.
Pending Roxas' confirmation, Ochoa remains in charge of the DILG, Lacierda said.

However, the nomination of Cavite Representative Joseph Abaya as DOTC
secretary, replacing Roxas, has yet to be sent to the commission, according to
Lacierda. Abaya, chairman of the House appropriations committee, would likely
assume the DOTC post in October after the approval of the proposed P2-trillion
national budget for 2013, Lacierda said.
Over the weekend, Roxas hit the ground running, dropping by the National
Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council office in Camp Aguinaldo to check on
the government's response to the 7.6-magnitude quake that struck the eastern
seaboard on Friday.
Roxas earlier said that upon his assumption, all appointed positions in the
DILG would be considered vacant—including those that are coterminous with
Robredo's tenure.
"We still don't know yet whatever the details of that arrangement. What is
certain is that the President has given Secretary Mar Roxas a free hand in
bringing his team to DILG," Lacierda said.
No 'wedge'
Ochoa conceded that Roxas would be in charge of the PNP and that the
President has given Roxas "a free hand if he wants to bring his own team who
could help him."
Lacierda also denied that Roxas' appointment to the DILG would create a wedge
between the President and Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Lacierda said Roxas' appointment was "to advance the nation's interest rather
than the party's interest."
"Certainly, it should not drive any wedge. Remember, we've always said … that
the President was looking for someone who would continue the reforms that the
President had envisioned for local governance and the police," he said.
"There is only one family. There is only one head. The President is the head,
so there should be no difficulty in the appointment of Secretary Mar Roxas to
the DILG," Lacierda said.
He said it was unthinkable, however, for the Liberal Party headed by Roxas to
coalesce with Binay's United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) for the 2013 polls.
"This would have been the same thing that would have prevailed because UNA
has already announced its senatorial slate and the administration is set to
announce its slate. So they will be vying for a limited number of positions. So
regardless of whether this unfortunate thing happened, the untimely passing of
Secretary Robredo, we will have senatorial elections," Lacierda said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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