Tag Archives: Ronaldo Puno

Column: Between Puno and Puno

Published on July 7, 2009. The links to the stories about the dinner with Secretary Puno can be found here. The main part of Chief Justice Puno’s speech can be read here.

Two weeks ago, over a 12-hour period, I found myself exploring the opposite poles of political discourse. On June 23, I was among several journalists who sat down for a freewheeling interview with quite possibly the most successful political operative since the Edsa restoration, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno. The following day, I was among many who heard the country’s leading moralist, Chief Justice Reynato Puno, thunder against the “epidemic of ignorance” threatening that same restored democracy.

I found the contrast most instructive, in large part because I happen to believe that public morality—the standards of conduct and performance we must expect from our public officials and from those who take part in public affairs—requires both competence and character. Good intentions are never enough.

Regardless of what I personally thought of Secretary Puno and his role in some of the political scandals of our time, I came away impressed by his political acumen, his strategic way of thinking about politics. And despite sharing many of Chief Justice Puno’s faith-based principles, I came away determined to measure him according to the lawyer’s standards—none of them faith-based—that he is sworn to uphold.

Between Puno the agent of pragmatism and Puno the prophet of the moral life, I found yet another confirmation that, in truth, morality is pragmatic.

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Cunning like a fox

Was at a most interesting dinner last week (June 23), with an unflappable, straight-talking Ronnie Puno, possibly the savviest political operator in town, as guest. I would like to write down my impressions sometime soon, but in the meantime, here are links to the three stories that resulted from the no-holds-barred interview. (There was only one instance that I can recall, when he asked that matters be kept off the record.)

First, the question about Joseph Estrada running again. Puno was instrumental in facilitating the convicted plunderer’s presidential pardon. Gil Cabacungan wrote:

Puno, who was instrumental in President Macapagal-Arroyo’s pardon of the ex-President and convicted plunderer, told Inquirer editors and reporters over dinner that arguments for and against Estrada seeking reelection were “strong,” and that it would take a ruling from the high court to settle the issue.

It was the first time a member of the Arroyo Cabinet admitted the possibility that Estrada, who was ousted from power in 2001, could return to Malacañang.

Next, the question about the Lakas-Kampi-CMD’s choice of presidential candidate: the veep or the defense chief? Christian Esguerra wrote down Puno’s response:

“Nag-iisip din yan [He thinks too],” he said in over dinner with editors and reporters of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net), noting he regularly spoke with De Castro since both of them belong to the Cabinet.

But between De Castro and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., he said he would be more comfortable serving as vice president under a Teodoro presidency, much like what United States Vice President Joe Biden now is to Barack Obama.

Last, the question about his perhaps all-too-pliable political loyalties. The report by Jocelyn Uy and Tarra Quismundo comes closest to describing the free-flowing character of the evening.

“If you ask them, the one thing they will tell you is that I was a loyal follower of all of them,” said Puno, who also served as Estrada’s interior secretary.

“Even if that sounds contradictory, it really isn’t because [I would serve] one boss at a time,” he continued, ascribing his unwavering relations with the three top leaders to his ability to distinguish “the partisan from the fundamental issues.”

Regardless of what I think of him, I came away thinking he certainly makes for good copy.

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Column: Ronnie Puno and the endgame

Published October 30, 2007

In reporting on the circumstances or consequences of Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio’s disclosure about cash gifts in paper bags, some colleagues in the trade found themselves describing his election victory last May as overwhelming. In fact, it was a squeaker. Father Ed’s 219,706 votes edged “queenpin” Lilia Pineda’s tally by a mere 1,147-vote margin — less than one-tenth of one percent of the number of voters eligible to vote for governor of Pampanga province.

The mistake, the myth-in-the-making, is understandable: It is the afterglow effect at work. I remember that, a hundred days into Fidel V. Ramos’ presidency, which he won with the smallest plurality (24 percent) in Philippine history, a survey jointly conducted by Social Weather Stations and Ateneo de Manila found that fully half of all voters remembered having voted for Ramos.

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