In Defense of Jesse Robredo
The articles cited here are worth reading in their entirety, but I want to highlight the portions about DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, who has been maligned most unfairly in the aftermath of the recent hostage crisis.
In the search for a scapegoat (Who was in charge?), the primary target appears to be Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo. He is head of the department charged with promoting peace and order, ensuring public safety, and strengthening the capabilities of local government units as well as overseeing the Philippine National Police…
Yes, he should have been in charge, and apparently he was in the command center. And if he had been in charge, things would certainly have turned out different.
Judging from stories from knowledgeable sources, however, he could not have been in charge because, while he is DILG head, he was supposedly ordered to concentrate on the local government side, and to leave the PNP side to Undersecretary Rico Escalona Puno. In which case, Puno, the first undersecretary appointed by P-Noy, should be the one debriefed.
Who is Puno? Googling reveals that until he burst forth as undersecretary, there is nothing on him. His appointment was accompanied by the info that he was a consultant of then Tarlac Rep. Noynoy Aquino and also served him in the Senate, in charge of public order and safety, economic affairs and local government, and liaising with PNP and the Armed Forces. He was in the Liberal Party’s National Campaign Committee. The basis of their friendship, aside from a common province, is apparently that both are gun enthusiasts. Ka-Vibes trumping competence, not to mention integrity, anytime. (“Ka-Vibes” doesn’t seem to be working by Prof. Winnie Monsod)
In my view, aside from fundamental police reforms, we need to make sure that Secretary Robredo, an award winning mayor with nearly 20 years of experience working on local peace and order, has unencumbered powers over the police at the national level. The line of command should be clear from the President downwards to Robredo to the top police officials to the rank and file. If it is true, as reported by other columnists (not in this paper) that Robredo was not given supervision of the police when he was appointed, that needs to be changed right away. We should remember what happened in the Department of Agriculture in the last administration when an Undersecretary was able to bypass his principal and got instructions straight from the President. (Shame and Blame with a sense of proportion by Dean Tony La Viña)
President Aquino himself has just confirmed what the “knowledgeable sources” have been saying all along:
…Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo is not directly in control of the Philippine National Police… The President said it is DILG Undersecretary for Peace and Order Rico Puno who is “more directly in charge of police” since he had delegated that task to Robredo’s subordinate… Puno and not Robredo therefore was in charge of the police when the hostage situation was happening, Aquino said. (Journal Online: Robredo cleared by Tess Bedico)
Under this Aquino administration, the PNP was not placed under Jesse Robredo, but under DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno who is said to be a proxy of the President.
Puno was appointed almost a month before Robredo was himself appointed. The PNP, being taken out of Robredo’s control, was supposedly a condition for him to make the appointment of Robredo, who is a member of the Liberal Party under the Samar group. This is said to be why Robredo didn’t start managing the crisis till much later.
Robredo on Tuesday told ABS-CBN how he really did not have a role in the crisis management.
“I was not in the loop. Hindi ko alam kung ano ang nangyayari sa mga pag-uusap nila. It was treated like an ordinary police situation,” he said. (ABS-CBN News: ‘Presidential leadership lacking during hostage crisis’ by RG Cruz)
“Knowledgeable sources” have further said that Sec. Robredo’s appointment is temporary (he is only “Acting Secretary“) and that President Aquino intends to eventually replace him with Usec. Puno. They say Sec. Robredo was only given the post because of public clamor for his appointment. If the stories are true, I question the president’s judgment for not recognizing what a valuable asset he has in Sec. Robredo.
Why the president would favor Puno over Robredo is mind-boggling, given the latter’s track record and the former’s lack thereof. Palace insiders during former President Cory Aquino’s administration have observed that the Aquinos appear to value personal ties and loyalty over intelligence and competence. So much for all the “hope” and “change” rhetoric that’s been shoved down our throats. So far it sounds like the same old traditional politics.
I’m nobody, possessing none of the stature of Sec. Robredo’s staunchest defenders. But I have for years followed closely his impressive career and have had the privilege of working in an organization to which he belongs. For whatever it’s worth, I have nothing but the deepest admiration, utmost respect and unwavering support for him.
The communities Sec. Robredo has transformed and the people he has inspired know his true worth, even if the president he serves doesn’t.