Romualdez lied, performed 'below par' – Lacson
MANILA, Philippines – In a speech commemorating the year after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Lacson blasted Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez for hijacking Yolanda recovery efforts to further his political agenda.
His speech on Monday, November 10, took on a frustrated tone as he spoke of his office's difficulties in dealing with the mayor who from day one has been critical of national government's relief and recovery efforts.
Tacloban, said Lacson, was "in a class of its own" for being difficult to deal with, saying the city's "performance is below par."
He cited, as an example, Romualdez's persistent statements that Tacloban has not received any funds from the national government.
"That is a lie. They received P230.7 million in cash from the Department of the Interior and Local Government for the repair of government centers. They were downloaded to him but now he wants to realign the budget to build a totally new city hall," he said in a press conference after his speech.
But only the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) can construct a completely new building, as agreed by the Infrastructure Cluster. LGUs can only be given funds to repair existing, damaged structures.
"Why did they request in the first place for monies to fund the repair of the government centers? And then after getting the money, he would request for re-alignment. What is the motive, what's the purpose?" wondered Lacson.
The downloaded money is already in the possession of Tacloban City government but its status remains floating. In the meantime, other LGUs have already completed the repairs of their government buildings, said Lacson.
Tacloban City has received also P6 billion (US$133.7 million) worth of projects and activities from national government, a bigger amount than what other LGUs have received, he said.
Lacson also slammed Romualdez' apparent sympathy for anti-government protesters.
While other Yolanda-hit LGUs commemorating the first year after the storm held programs to thank the national government, private sector and donor agencies, Tacloban had protest rallies, he said.
In the midst of commemoration activities, Lacson's office obtained proof that a truck bus ferrying anti-government protesters to and from mass action sites would park inside the Romualdez compound in Barangay 62-A of the city.
Anti-government placards were also stacked behind Tacloban City hall, added Lacson. This is not the first time he has accused Romualdez of involvement in the protests. Romualdez has denied older allegations.
He texted Romualdez' camp about the discovery to which Representative Martin Romualdez (a cousin of Mayor Romualdez), according to Lacson, replied, "Next time we will be more circumspect."
As of writing, Mayor Romualdez has not replied to Rappler about Lacson's allegations.
Romualdez an 'obstacle'
After lambasting the Tacloban mayor, Lacson recognized local government executives who have been more cooperative.
The mayors of Tanuan and Javier in Leyte, Guiuan in Eastern Samar and the governors of Samar, Iloilo, Cebu and Palawan, he said, were able to put politics aside for the sake of rehabilitation.
These officials were able to accomplish much "despite being either members of the political opposition or allies but not in the so-called inner circle," said the rehabilitation chief.
He cited as an example Tanauan mayor Pel Tecson, a member of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), who has not hesitated to pester OPARR even in the middle of the night for his city's needs. (READ: Immunity from rehab? Tanauan stands out)
"That's the attitude we are looking for in local executives because we are not omnipotent, almighty to see everything on the ground," said Lacson.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, who was seated beside Lacson at the press conference, called Romualdez's actions "unfortunate."
Binay, who is also president of UNA, said that while local governments must be respected, "Here is an instance where the local government is already an obstacle."
Despite this, Lacson said his office will continue to work with Romualdez.
"We will continue to extend our hand of cooperation to the mayor of Tacloban. We will not give up on Tacloban…But the local executives must do their share," he said.
He highlighted the importance of local government executives saying the ideal official is someone "proactive, aggressive, makulit (insistent)."
Cooperation between all government agencies, he emphasized, is crucial with less than 20 months to go before his mandate ends in 2016. – Rappler.com
For Rappler's full coverage of the 1st anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), go to this page.