PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — TOUTED as the most successful campaign manager in Philippine politics, Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo V. Puno would be soon leaving his post to run anew for a seat in the House of Representatives representing the first district of Antipolo City on May 2007, People’s Tonight learned yesterday.
Puno was elected to the same post on May 10, 2004 until he was appointed to the top DILG post by President Arroyo. On Tuesday, he gave hints he would be filing his candidacy early next year when interviewed over DzMM.
His background includes supporting the presidential bids of eventual Philippine Presidents Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph E. Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He also used to be a DILG chief during the short-lived Estrada administration, then turned leader of KAMPI or Kabalikat ng Mamamayang Pilipino, the chief administration party of President Arroyo. He is a holder of a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from the Ateneo de Manila University and Masteral Credits from Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and has had 35 years of extensive experience in business and public relations and administration.
Puno’s main rival for the post is said to be Mrs. Josefina Gatlabayan, the wife of Antipolo City Mayor Angelito Gatlabayan, whom he soundly defeated during the 2004 elections.
Mayor Gatlabayan is said to be running for the congressional seat of the second district of Antipolo City vice third-termer Victor R. Sumulong, another KAMPI stalwart who in turn is said to be eyeing the Antipolo City mayoralty post. The Gatlabayans are also known supporters of the President. Mayor Gatlabayan used to be one of the local chief executives who accompanied the Chief Executive in her many foreign missions.
Highly-reliable sources from the DILG and the Philippine National Police said Puno had long made clear his plan to return to the Lower House where he can help the President more. However, the sources said they can not immediately say who are the personalities being considered to replace Puno at the DILG which has supervision over the PNP, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the local government units.
“Sec. Puno is a brilliant strategist who can clearly help the President more once he is elected back to Congress. I’m sure he will win again in Antipolo,” said a senior PNP official on condition of anonymity.
Puno is believed to be a sure winner in Antipolo City should he really decide to run for an elective post, according to another officer of the Rizal Provincial Police Office, who also demanded anonymity.
“He is well-loved by Antipolo residents due to his programs particularly when it comes to peace and order and illegal drug trafficking and abuse when he was still in Congress,” a barangay official, who identified himself only as “Joe,” said.
An indication he is out to reclaim his congressional seat can be seen along the Sumulong Highway in Antipolo City which recently underwent a major road improvement: signs which say that “the road-improvement program was made under the auspices of Rep. Ronaldo V. Puno. Please bear with the temporary inconveniences.” Posters of then Rep. Puno also continue to line up the Sumulong Highway and were not removed even though he was already the DILG chief.
Most recently, a new Antipolo City Police Office chief was named in the person of Supt. Danilo Macerin who is said to be a protégé of Puno.