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.