Itâ€™s good to have friends in high places. At least that is the case in Philippine society. Having very important people backing you can help you get what you want in your career or your business. If one doesnâ€™t have friends in the right places, it would be harder to get things going for one’s self and family. It is one of those open secrets to living a seemingly successful and prosperous life for Filipinos. Members of the elite have always held this position in society. Most of them even admit to or sometimes even brag about adhering to the practice of asking or giving favors exclusively from or to relatives or friends in positions of influence.
Despite being a country of 100 million people, getting ahead in the Philippines is an easy task when you establish connections with a public servant in government. It can help put your request on top of a big pile and expedite its approval process or set the wheels in motion faster. In fact, when you know someone in a high position in the public sector, you donâ€™t have to worry about breaking the rules. Your buddies in power can easily hush your critics using lame excuses for you. This is very much accepted by majority of the Filipino people.
Take the case of former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) undersecretary, Rico Puno. Not only is Puno a close friend of Philippine President, Benigno Simeon â€œBSâ€ Aquino, he is also said to be the latterâ€™s confidant – Aquinoâ€™s â€œeyes and earsâ€. This can also mean that Puno may know a lot of compromising information about the highest officer in the land. And this is precisely why some think that President BS Aquino is quick to save Punoâ€™s backside every time he gets into trouble.
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Having the privilege of being close to President BS Aquino has not hurt Puno, indeed. Despite being embroiled in one controversy after another from the get-go, Puno doesnâ€™t even get as much as a slap on the wrist. A lot of people are starting to notice how amazing it is that Puno seems to be always getting off the hook just when they thought he had finally caught himself between a rock and a hard place. He seems to give new meaning to the saying â€œdefying the laws of gravityâ€. With all the allegations of impropriety involving Puno, he should have figuratively fallen flat on his face by now if he were not President BS Aquinoâ€™s friend.
Puno must be secretly regretting being thrust in the limelight after his appointment in government though. He has been hounded by allegations of involvement in the illegal numbers game jueteng as soon as he got the DILG post. It was Archbishop Oscar Cruz who implicated Puno among others in a list of big-time jueteng operators and even testified in the recent Senate hearing that â€œbusinessman Tonyboy Cojuangco personally asked him to ‘go easy’ on his exposÃ© after he had linked Aquino administration officials and police officers to the jueteng anomaly.â€
One does wonder what Puno has on the Aquino-Conjuanco clan that would make them do things for him just to make sure he is â€œsafeâ€. Does the fact that Puno possesses a lot of firearms make them sweat? President â€œBSâ€ Aquino for example, had to immediately speak on his friendâ€™s behalf during a press briefing regarding Punoâ€™s involvement in an allegedly anomalous rifles contract for the Philippine National Police Special Action Force. Aquino said that Puno simply might have “forgotten” to remind the DILG’s procurement service to stop the post-evaluation of the sole bidder. Never mind that the Punoâ€™s former boss, the late DILG secretary; Jesse Robredo was also investigating Punoâ€™s involvement in the case of the overpriced rifles possibly being bought from a sole bidder. However, being friends with President BS Aquino automatically entitles Puno to the “presumption of innocence” that most of the Presidentâ€™s political enemies never got.
On the other hand, Punoâ€™s resignation from his DILG post could be a sign that President BS Aquino and his mouthpieces could be running out of excuses to stop members of mainstream and social media from putting pressure on them to explain things using more solid facts. After all, Jesse Robredoâ€™s death is putting most Filipinos on high conspiracy theory mode. It doesnâ€™t help that Puno along with some policemen allegedly broke into Robredoâ€™s apartment immediately after the latterâ€™s plane went missing.
President BS Aquino should understand peopleâ€™s curiosity surrounding the â€œPunogateâ€ scandal considering he himself is one great conspiracy theorist. We recall how the President tends to speculate on his enemyâ€™s agendas using false data. His penchant for assuming the worst has ruined a few peopleâ€™s careers and reputation.
The timing of Punoâ€™s resignation is quite suspect. It was three days before a Senate committee starts its investigation on the allegations of impropriety. One canâ€™t even admire his move considering his reason for resigning is not because he was heeding calls for him to step down; no, he used the excuse of giving his friend, President BS Aquino â€œa free hand to the incoming Secretary in forming a new team.â€ It just seems like heâ€™s just returning a favor. The question on everyoneâ€™s lips is why did Puno resign if he is not guilty? And why canâ€™t he simply explain the allegations against him? President BS Aquino asked the same kind of questions from his political enemies in the past and will do so in the future.
Senator Miriam Santiago makes a lot of sense when she said that Puno should have been sacked a long time ago after his disastrous handling of the Aug. 23, 2010 hostage crisis in Manila, which resulted in the deaths of eight tourists from Hong Kong along with the dismissed police officer who took them hostage at the time. Instead, lucky Puno will probably get another lucrative post with the current administration since President BS Aquino told reporters he will â€œask his long-time friend if he still wants another government position.â€ Life certainly is too peachy for Rico Puno. Itâ€™s not too far-fetched for President BS Aquino to simple create a position for his â€œconfidantâ€ as a MalacaÃ±ang consultant. This would assure him that Puno would be by his side all the time.
Yes, the elite members of Philippine society seem to have it easy. President BS Aquino guarantees it. His election promise to level the playing field doesnâ€™t seem to include ordinary people. But it does include his Kaibigan, Kaklase at Kabarilan (KKK). Itâ€™s easier for these people to move from one influential position to another under his regime, thus making it easier for them to keep a hold on power by keeping the rest of society just where they are – irrelevant and inconsequential lots. In other words, tough luck to us all who are outside of President BS Aquinoâ€™s inner circle.
In life, things are not always what they seem.