Lacson mulls quitting after Yolanda rehab plan
MANILA, Philippines – Having accomplished his “main” objective, Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Lacson said he is considering to leave his post after submitting to the President the master rehabilitation plan for areas hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
In an interview on dzBB, Lacson said he will meet with President Benigno Aquino III to discuss the “way forward” for his office after having submitted the P170.7-billion ($3.93 billion*) Yolanda rehabilitation plan to Aquino on Friday, August 1.
When asked by broadcaster Nimfa Ravelo if he will request a broader range of powers, Lacson said on Sunday, August 3: “Hindi naman gano'n. Tatanungin ko lang, ano pa 'yung gagawin ko? O kung wala na akong gagawin, magpapaalam na po ako.” (Not really. I will just ask, what else do I have to do? Or if I have nothing more to do, I will have to say goodbye.)
Aquino, after all, gave Lacson no power to implement the rehabilitation plan. Neither did the President give him his own budget when he issued Memorandum Order (MO) No. 62, which named Lacson as the presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery. (READ: Lacson as rehab czar: Does he need more powers?)
Under MO 62, Lacson is limited as an “over-all manager and coordinator.” This leaves national and local government agencies – which need to handle disasters other than Yolanda – to implement the plan that Lacson's office prepared.
Described as a “CEO without a budget,” Lacson is often compared to Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, his Indonesian counterpart, who wielded “near-absolute” powers when he successfully rebuilt Aceh and Nias after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. (READ: Indonesian rehab czar: Give Lacson more powers)
Lacson earlier told Rappler he is sometimes tempted to quit because his responsibilities far outweigh the mandate the President gave him. He said he "couldn't quit from this," however, because "my conscience will bother me."
Like a fool?
Months later, he said his "main task" – to craft a rehabilitation plan – is over.
In his radio interview on Sunday, Lacson said he will meet with his staff on Monday, August 4, to discuss their next plans.
“Kasi tapos na 'yung plano, what's next? 'Yun ang sunod na itatanong. Wala tayong implementasyon, pero meron doon sa mandate namin na meron kaming oversight function,” Lacson said. (Because the plan is finished, what's next? That's the next question. We don't have implementation powers, but our mandate includes an oversight function.)
He pointed out that he has “no power” even to apprehend local government units if they fail to act quickly.
“Wala sa power namin yon, Nimfa. Katulad n'yo rin, tagamasid lang kami at taga-report, at taga-monitor,” he said. (That's not within our powers, Nimfa. Like you, we can just watch, report, and monitor.)
He said “well-meaning friends,” in fact, have asked him if he felt “like a fool” when he accepted the job without a clear authority. A former police chief, Lacson told his friends this is unlike a “war mission” from the commander in chief – in which case he would've asked about matters such as firepower before he accepted the job.
That this is a “humanitarian” mission, according to Lacson, made the question of authority “irrelevant.”
He said: “Tatanungin mo pa ba kung ano 'yung poder ko eh samantalang agaran, nangangailangang matugunan 'yung pangangailangan, dahil humanitarian ito, maraming nagsa-suffer?” (Will you ask about your authority when the need is urgent, because this is humanitarian, and many people suffer?)
Experts, however, have called for a broader range of powers for Lacson – in fact a standalone disaster agency – to oversee rehabilitation after Yolanda and to prepare for the next disasters. (READ: Urgently needed, a disaster agency)
The Philippines' system is “designed to fail for massive disasters,” Ateneo School of Government Dean Tony La Viña earlier said. – Rappler.com
*$1 = P43.46