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There’s the Rub

‘Kafkaesque’

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Am I sympathetic to Rico E. Puno’s cause?

No. I do not particularly care about guns and am scandalized that government should make buying them more of a priority than raising the salaries and benefits of public school teachers. Putting modern weapons in the hands of the police does not fill me with a sense of security, it fills me with a sense of dread.

Is he guilty?

No.

That is the mind-boggling thing. Like Kafka’s character in “The Trial,” Puno has been found guilty without having been charged. Like Kafka’s character in “The Trial,” Puno has been found guilty without having been tried. This is one ghastly classic lesson in how to bury someone under a pile of innuendoes in lieu of rubble.

The entire case against him seems formidable until you examine it part by part. Then it turns out to be a house of cards.

All it rests on is this: Puno went to Robredo’s condo unit where he was denied entry by Robredo’s maid. Therefore he had something to hide. Therefore he was looking for documents that incriminated him. Therefore he is guilty of something. ABS-CBN broke the story, and this was its gist.

It would be amplified later by these: Ricky Carandang, Edwin Lacierda, and Abigail Valte would repeatedly say P-Noy ordered Puno to lock down Robredo’s things but he never ordered him to go to Robredo’s house. Therefore he exceeded his mandate. Therefore his actions were suspicious. Later, Leila de Lima would secure Robredo’s unit, apparently at the behest of Jesse’s widow, Leni. Therefore this was done to counter Puno’s unwarranted, and unwanted, intrusion. Therefore Puno is truly guilty.

What in fact happened?

After Robredo’s plane crashed, P-Noy ordered Puno to secure all of Robredo’s documents as they were extremely sensitive, and gambling lords in particular would be eager to get their hands on them. Puno complied. Going by the book, he brought along a group led by Supt. Oliver Tanseco. Tanseco is Robredo’s deputy chief of internal security and one of his trusted aides. They went to Jesse’s office, took pictures, and sealed it. Puno then reported it to the President.

That same night, Tanseco remembered that there were other documents in Robredo’s condo unit and called up Puno to propose that they secure it too. That call was witnessed by officials who, for reasons of their own, kept mum about it while Puno was being pilloried for stepping out of bounds but who now confess to it. The following day, Puno and Tanseco went over to Robredo’s house. They were never denied entry by the maid simply because there was no maid. In fact, there was no one inside. Puno himself remained in the lobby while his team took pictures of the unit from the outside. They never entered the unit. All in all, they spent 20 minutes there and left.

Later, P-Noy also ordered De Lima to go to Robredo’s condo unit and inventory his things. De Lima informed Puno about it, they met at the unit, and exchanged notes. And then they left.

It’s a cautionary tale: There’s nothing so innocent you can’t give it a malicious spin.

From there the story flew off, with no small help from people who gave it wings. Suddenly, there was an unnamed DILG official who swore that at the time of his death Robredo was investigating anomalies in arms procurement. This was apparently the first time a DILG head did this, which gave it weight. The anomaly must have been huge.

Who was in charge of arms procurement? Puno. Therefore he really had something to hide.

In fact, was Robredo investigating anything? We do not know, he is not around to shed light on things. What we do know is that his widow says she is not aware of it, or even less or her husband investigating Puno. What we do know is that P-Noy says he himself discovered the seemingly higher prices of the firearms the Department of the Interior and Local Government was buying and asked Robredo to look into it. He says he never attributed any wrongdoing to it, certainly not by Puno. He says he was satisfied by how it was explained.

For all the good this has done. On the strength of the unnamed DILG source, it has become established fact: Robredo was investigating, and he was investigating Puno. Who is this unnamed official and why does he prefer to be unnamed? We do not know. We only know that he is not pandak, maitim, and maligno.

What specifically was Robredo investigating? The P1.2-billion contract in new pistols for the Philippine National Police. How do we know this? We know this from the fact that Puno signed it on the very day Mar Roxas was appointed DILG chief. Therefore it was a midnight deal. Therefore it was hugely anomalous.

In fact someone has yet to show which part of the bidding process was not transparent, was irregular, and is disadvantageous to the country. The only thing that seems strange is the timing of the signing of the contract and Roxas’ entry to the DILG. But that is so only because the entire process from the initial bidding to the final signing went according to schedule. The contract was supposed to be signed by the end of August. Who could have known Robredo would die and be succeeded by Roxas at about that time?

Which brings us to how you can phrase a “fact” to twist its meaning grotesquely. You say, “The contract was signed on the very day Roxas was appointed DILG secretary,” that sounds sinister. You say, “Roxas was appointed on the very day the contract was signed,” that’s just fortuitous. A lesson again on how nothing is so innocent you can’t put malice into it.

There’s more, but I’ll leave that for another day as an object lesson in iniquity. Suffice it to say here that you don’t like Puno, that’s fine. You think he should be out of the DILG, that’s fine. You think he violates your sense of aesthetics, that’s fine too. But you say he’s guilty of all this? That’s foul.

That’s, well, Kafkaesque.


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