Miriam: Lacson shelter claims ‘anomalous’

Santiago accuses Lacson of undermining DPWH chief Rogelio Singson by claiming irregularities in the construction of Yolanda bunkhouses

'BEYOND MANDATE.' Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago accuses Lacson of going beyond his mandate in claiming irregularities in the construction of bunkhouses for Yolanda victims. Santiago says this was an indirect criticism of DPWH chief Rogelio Singson. Photo by Ayee Macaraig/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – “I think the President should slap the wrist of Mr Pinky Lacson.”

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr called on Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Lacson to name the 10 politicians who he claimed to be obstructing government’s rehabilitation efforts.

In an interview on Monday, January 27, Santiago said Lacson’s allegations of irregularities in the construction of bunkhouses for victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) effectively undermined Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson.

“I join the bishops in holding that Mr Lacson, who I understand is nicknamed Pinky, Mr Pinky Lacson, should identify who are these people he calls obstructions. Who are these obstructionists? What are these international standards?” she said, again reviving talk about Lacson’s sexuality

A fierce critic of the secretary, Santiago questioned Lacson’s statements.

“This is very anomalous because a presidential assistant, who is only a subordinate of the President, is going around criticizing his president in the form of the alter ego who is the Cabinet secretary.”

Santiago’s criticism comes after Lacson said that he has a list of 10 people “mostly politicians, possibly administration allies but some in the opposition” who are obstructing the investigation into the bunkhouses and the rehabilitation work in typhoon-devastated areas.

Bishops have called on Lacson to name names, saying it was unfair of him to accuse politicians without letting them air their side.

Revilla also made the same call in a stinging press statement on Monday. The senator said, “Pangalanan mo, huwag puro press release!” (Name them, don’t just issue press releases!)

“Hindi na ito ang panahon para itago pa ang pangalan nila at hayaan ang ganitong klase ng pandaraya. Kumbaga, biktima na, bibiktimahin pa,” Revilla added. (This is not the time to hide their names and allow this kind of cheating. They are already victims, do not make them victims twice.)

Yet in a press briefing in Malacañang Monday, Lacson again refused to name the so-called obstructionists. He echoed Singson in saying that the bunkhouses were not overpriced but were substandard.

“The important thing here is the idea that if you don’t want to help, don’t obstruct,” Lacson said. “I don’t think the names are that important. The message is more important.” 

A former senator, the so-called rehabilitation czar is leading recovery efforts after the world’s most powerful typhoon devastated the Visayas on November 8. 

The Senate invited Lacson to its investigation into the allegedly overpriced and substandard bunkhouses on Wednesday, January 29. The Senate public works committee also invited Singson and urban planner Felino Palafox.

Santiago, who filed a resolution calling for the probe, said she will attend the hearing. The senator has been at odds with Lacson since her former colleague defended Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile at the height of the Senate fund controversy. Enrile is Santiago’s fiercest rival.

As for Revilla, his son Jolo Revilla ran for Cavite vice governor against Lacson’s son, Jay, in 2013. Jolo Revilla won the election.

‘No power to hit Singson’

Santiago questioned Lacson’s pronouncements that he is investigating reports that local politicians are colluding with contractors to pocket 30% to 35% commissions in the construction of the bunkhouses.

The senator said this was a swipe at Singson, who has insisted since the controversy started that there was no overpricing, only failure on the part of contractors to follow some specifications. The public works chief even vowed to resign if overpricing would be proven.

She added that Lacson as presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery had no authority to make the accusations in public.

“He’s making all kinds of accusations. His function is to execute. He belongs to the executive branch of government. He’s no longer part of the legislature, which is a policy-making branch of government,” she said.

She said Lacson should have just informed the President about the issue in private instead of “making judgments” on Singson.

“Doesn’t the presidential assistant who criticizes implicitly a secretary of the DPWH exceed his mandate? Does he have the authority of his President to speak in this manner to criticize a person who is no less than an alter ego of the President and to make such vague accusations you cannot pinpoint what he’s actually trying to say?” the lady senator said.

Santiago again belittled Lacson’s position. “A presidential assistant is nothing but a gofer of the President: you go there, you come here.”

‘Hitlerian principle vs Singson’

Despite Santiago’s allegations and reports of a rift between Lacson and Singson, the  Palace said that the two secetaries were working together and were even seated beside each other during a Cabinet meeting earlier this month.

Still, Santiago accused Lacson of adopting a “Hitlerian principle” against Singson.

“Secretary Singson enjoys a very wide reputation for honesty in public service. He is widely looked up to and it is very unfortunate that people like him can be subjected to mudslinging under the Hitlerian principle that the more mud you throw, some of it is bound to stick,” she said. 

Asked if she will confront Lacson about the issue in the Senate hearing, Santiago said, “Oh, I think I’ll just ignore him. He doesn’t deserve to be confronted.” – Rappler.com