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PNP, DILG chiefs skip Senate 'cash gifts' probe

November 21, 2007 10:31am
(Updated 10:42 a.m.) Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, National Police chief Director Gen. Avelino Razon Jr and Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio were among over a dozen no-shows Wednesday at the resumption of the Senate hearing into the Malacañang 'cash gifts' controversy.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee said that while Razon sent his regrets, he expects Puno to attend future hearings.

"We expect him (Puno) to be with us [in future hearings] because he made public pronouncements that [Executive Order] 464 or not, he will attend," he said, adding that the Interior secretary is presently abroad.

Other officials invited to the hearing but who sent their regrets included Interior Undersecretary Austere Panadero and Edward Plaza of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).

Present as of 10 a.m. were Vicente Aquino, executive director of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, and Gloria Bundoc of the Office of the President's finance department.

Arturo Manuel Jr, executive vice president of the Bank of Commerce, was also present at the hearing. The "cash gifts" were segregated using paper bands that bore markings of the Bank of Commerce.

Bulacan Gov. Joselito Mendoza, accompanied by local officials of Bulacan province, also showed up early.

Panlilio earlier said his staff was given by Mendoza a brown paper bag containing P500,000. The incident allegedly happened last October 11 in Malacañang Palace.

He inquired with Malacañang about the nature of the money and received a written reply stating that it did not come from Palace coffers. The Malacañang letter was signed by Bundoc.

Puno and Razon were invited to shed light on reports that at least P160 million in counterinsurgency funds were channeled to cash gifts.

Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier cited information reaching him indicating that P100 million was channeled through the Philippine National Police-Police Anti-Crime Emergency Response (PNP-Pacer), and the rest through the Police Security and Protection Office (PSPO).

Security was extra tight at the Senate as some governors started arriving for the hearing into the Malacañang cash gifts mess.

While the Senate sergeant-at-arms required media, Senate staff and visitors to register, Special Action Force personnel outside the Senate building asked to see car passes from visitors. - GMANews.TV
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