PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III said he was giving Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and his undersecretary, Rico Puno, their “last chance” to patch things up and resolve their personal differences.
He summoned Robredo and Puno Sunday night and admonished them “for failing to uphold the high standards of performance that I demand from them.”
“The outcome was a commitment for more professionalism, starting with their acting as one... Both of them are under observation,” the President told reporters.
“They will keep their posts for the meantime, subject to changes in the way they have been conducting themselves... I was at my wits’ end on things that should have happened but did not happen.”
Mr. Aquino said he made his “sense of exasperation” clear during his meeting with the two officials, and that he wanted to see an “end to the bickering.”
Puno had earlier identified Robredo as the head of one of five groups that he claimed wanted him ousted.
“Intrigue is part and parcel of being in government. That is to be expected—all of this campaign to discredit people,” Mr. Aquino said in an interview before Sunday night’s meeting.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to fine-tune the process or we find remedies to this situation existing in the [Interior Department].
“Both of them are under fire, and they have been under fire for quite some time. They are also human. Maybe sometimes things were said that perhaps were not taken in the proper context.”
Last week, Mr. Aquino admitted that Puno had committed “so many errors” in doing his duties, even as he again defended his long-time friend’s continued stay at the Interior Department.
Mr. Aquino, who stopped Puno from resigning over the Aug. 23 hostage incident and allegations of his involvement in the illegal numbers game jueteng, said he believed there was a “campaign to disparage the reputation” of his friend.
As undersecretary for peace and order, Puno was in charge of the National Police during the bungled rescue attempt on Aug. 23 that left eight Chinese tourists dead.
Puno has also been accused by retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz of receiving monthly payola from jueteng operators.
“We’ve been together for a very long time. There is really a campaign to disparage his reputation,” Mr. Aquino said in defense of his friend.
“He has so many skills, but when you look at the reports, it appears that he’s just a bystander in the shooting range.”
Joyce Pangco Panares, Manila Standard Today