POSTSCRIPT / September 13, 2012 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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One consistent story needed on Puno saga

WHAT TO DO?: The controversy hounding Rico Puno, arguably the closest buddy of President Noynoy Aquino, appears to be compromising the credibility of the straight and narrow daang matuwid of the administration. These options suggest themselves:

* President Aquino and his ventriloquists may want to stop discussing the subject until they have an air-tight scenario/timeline on what he and the key characters said and did after the plane bearing the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo crashed last Aug. 18.

* Hotshot crisis PR (public relations) operators, with envelopes of convincing arguments, should work overtime on the Palace’s assets embedded in media and some lawmakers poised to inquire, in aid of legislation, into the Puno phenomenon.

* An image-maker/specialist should do a makeover of resigned DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno to improve public perception of him before he is given another post in the Aquino Cabinet.

* * *

DISCREPANCIES: As Postscript suggested last Sunday, Malacañang must give priority to the writing of one cohesive scenario/timeline to paper over seeming discrepancies in the statements and narrations of President Aquino, Puno and others being quoted in media.

For instance, President Aquino said way back in Vladivostok on the sideline of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting that he instructed Puno to secure Robredo’s office(s) right after the plane crash on Aug. 18.

At that point, nobody knew that Robredo was dead, stuck in the sunken plane. Still, a lockdown of his office(s) was immediately ordered. What if he turned out to have survived and he found Puno had gone through his files?

* * *

SEQUENCE: To explain Puno’s sweeping “lockdown” that looked like a raid to some, the President later said that his “eyes and ears” of long standing must have understood that his instructions included securing the secretary’s personal condominium unit in Quezon City.

In a TV interview on GMA-7 the other day, however, Puno said that the President did not tell him to secure Robredo’s apartment. That meant that at the time he went there he knew that that place was not covered by the President’s order.

Another question: Which came ahead, President Aquino’s ordering the lockdown or his being informed (Aug. 20/21?) by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima of Mrs. Leni Robredeo’s request for their condominium unit to be secured because some people (Puno party) tried to enter it?

* * *

MIDNIGHT DEAL?: There is also need to clarify the dates of Puno’s submitting to the Office of the President his letter of resignation, the President’s accepting that resignation, and Malacañang’s announcing its acceptance.

The sequence is easy to smooth out, it being an internal documentation.

But the resignation date must compare logically with the date of the awarding of the questioned purchase contract for rifles of the Philippine National Police, and the announcement that Liberty Party president Mar Roxas was taking over as DILG secretary.

Too close timing can give the impression that the arms contract was a midnight transaction being rushed before Roxas could catch up on the deal and possibly review it.

* * *

UPROOTED OR BALLED?: The public is interested in Puno’s role and future in the Aquino administration. Is the DILG undersecretary for peace and order totally out — or just being pulled aside to lie low before he is recycled back to the Cabinet?

Kung baga sa puno, as @1rgcruz asked yesterday in Twitter, was the DILG Usec uprooted for good or just earth-balled for replanting elsewhere?

The President said early on that he was scouting for another position where the competence and expertise of Puno could be put to good use. By the tenor of his statement, it seems that he will not – or cannot? — let Puno go that easily. Has Puno grown indispensable?

The over-protective president probably does not realize that Puno is damaged goods, a victim of the same cruel trial by publicity that the Yellow mob had used to destroy those they see standing in their way.

* * *

CAPITAL MARKET: There are two developments indicating a growing confidence in the local investment climate.

* There are reports that the Philippines is emerging as a “preferred investments destination” of multinational companies. This is partly due to the economic woes that many European investors go through, and also to perceptions that this country is now in better shape.

* It looks like ordinary Filipinos have also taken a serious look at putting their money into investment instruments. In part, this is due to the very low yield offered for time deposits, and the effort of stockbrokers and financial consultants to encourage the public to buy stocks.

These developments are good only if the Philippine Stock Exchange and the Securities and Exchange Commission do their job well. Credibility being the main factor that makes for a sound capital market, the two agencies must remain credible.

* * *

CALATA OFFERING: Early this year, a highly-successful family-owned agricultural trading firm went public. The firm is Calata Corp., founded by a Bulacan-based entrepreneur who used to supply the needs of farmers and poultry growers.

Now a billion-peso business, it appears to be the leading supplier of agricultural products and farm inputs produced by local and international firms such as San Miguel Corp. and the US-based Monsanto and Syngenta.

Calata’s initial public offering met with enthusiastic response. The share price went on a steady climb, similar to the experience of such companies as Bloomberry Resorts Corp., Century Properties Group Inc., Tanduay Holdings Inc., IPVG Corp., IP Converge Data Center Inc., and Wellex Industries.

But now Calata itself is wondering if the climb of its share prices is being influenced by external forces. Its president, Joseph Calata, wrote the PSE to examine the behavior of its share prices. The PSE has sought the help of the SEC in its investigation.

Last we heard, the SEC’s investigating unit, the Capital Market Integrity Corp., has already started to take a look at the role played by certain stockbrokers in this issue. This is good news.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 13, 2012)

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