Lacson: Yolanda rehab until June 2016

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Former senator Panfilo Lacson tells reporters he has accepted the job as 'rehabilitation czar,' post-Yolanda (Haiyan)

MASS BURIAL. A view of a mass grave outside a Catholic church in the super typhoon-devastated city of Palo, Leyte province, Philippines. Photo by Dennis M. Sabangan/EPA

MANILA, Philippines – Accepting a presidential offer to oversee government’s massive and costly post-Yolanda rehabilitation program, former senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson said he hopes to accomplish the job by June 2016, the end of term of the Aquino administration.

Lacson told a media forum on Monday, December 2, that he will officially start working once the executive order creating his position is issued. President Aquino has ordered Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr to “work out the details” of the EO, he added.

He acknowledged challenges in his new job – “politics, dynamics,” to name a few. But Lacson said his aim is “to get things done.”

He believes that by June 2016, when the President steps down, he would have accomplished at least 80 percent of the job.

The President met with Lacson on November 29 to offer him the job, 3 weeks after Super Typhoon Yolanda struck central Philippines, killing more than 5,000 people, rendering at least 4 million homeless, and affecting the livelihood of 10 million others.

The government has been criticized for its slow response to the crisis. (READ: Too many cooks spoil the broth)

Last week, the Cabinet outlined a rehabilitation plan for Yolanda areas, following a series of meetings of a task force headed by Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla. The plan will cost the government at least P40 billion. 

Lacson’s appointment suprised many Cabinet officials, according to Palace insiders. A former presidential wannabee and retired police general, the 65-year-old Lacson does not belong to any of the key factions within the administration: the one associated with the ruling Liberal Party and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, the so-called Balay grouop, and the other linked to Ochoa, the so-called Samar group.

Lacson conceded that among the challenges in his new job are “politics and dynamics.” But he expressed the hope these would be hurdled through constant communication with officials tasked to help rehabilitate areas damaged by the world’s most powerful typhoon.

Asked if the President consulted anyone on Lacson’s appointment, a senior government official told Rappler: “It must be [the President’s] sole decision.”

From pork to disaster?

An ally of Aquino – both were staunch anti-Arroyo senators – Lacson finished his term as senator in 2013. He was a fugitive during the 2010 presidential elections which Aquino won, after the Arroyo government filed criminal charges against him for the death of PR man Bubby Dacer. Lacson said prosecutors under the Arroyo regime had fabricated evidence to harass him.

Aquino pledged he would give him a job this year, most likely as head of an anti-corruption group.

In August, Aquino said he was “open” to the idea of naming Lacson to head a body that will probe the pork barrel scam. However, he then said that he was still awaiting the assessment by Ochoa of a draft executive order that names Lacson anti-corruption czar.

“I will follow it up with the Executive Secretary because it’s been a while, this pending proposal of Senator Lacson,” he told reporters on August 22.

But for unclear reasons, his appointment as “anti-corruption czar” never came about. Last week, Lacson told media he found the job redundant given the existence of other agencies already investigating corruption.

Challenge for government

While the government’s economic managers said the typhoon would have minimal impact on the country’s overall economic performance, the disaster is seen to delay the campaign against poverty.

At least 59.4% of families in Eastern Samar, which was badly hit, live below the poverty line — this area comprising Guiuan town. Northern Samar and Western Samar also had high poverty rates of 44% and 36%, respectively. In Leyte, nearly 1 in 3 families were poor; in Aklan, 1 in 5 families were poor. (READ: How Yolanda cancelled progress on poverty reduction). 

Thousands of typhoon survivors have also flocked to other areas such as Cebu, the Bicol region, and Metro Manila.

Some 18,016 displaced people or 4,352 families in Haiyan-hit islands Samar and Leyte flocked to Manila on board the government’s C-130 flights from November 16 to 29, Malacañang said on Sunday, December 1. –


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