Rehab czar: No legal weight, can’t handle budget

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Rehabilitation czar Ping Lacson says his new title has no legal weight, but the former police chief is already going after alleged corrupt local officials.


MANILA, Philippines – Less than a week after assuming office, rehabilitation czar Ping Lacson begins work on typhoon-hit areas.

He says his new title has no legal weight, but the former police chief is already going after alleged corrupt local officials.

Paterno Esmaquel reports. (Watch more in the video report below.)


(The script of the video report follows.)

The man with the toughest job after Super Typhoon Yolanda says he’s not as powerful as the title sounds.

Rehabilitation czar Ping Lacson says his appointment has no legal weight. He also has no power over the budget.

Lacson says the President appointed him through a memorandum order, not an executive order.

An executive order has legal weight, which means one can file a case against anyone who defies it.Unlike an executive order, he says a memorandum order is purely administrative.

But the former senator says this doesn’t mean his hands are tied.

PING LACSON, REHABILITATION CZAR: Alam mo, senador ako for 12 years, ano, wala naman akong hawak na pondo ng line agencies doon. Wala rin namang legal weight ‘yung aking pagiging senador except yung oversight function ng Congress. But nakakapag-file naman kami ng kaso ‘pag may mga shenanigans. ‘Pag may mga anomalies, we see to it that we guard against those, ang sabi ko nga kanina, mga kleptomaniacs of the world.

(You know, I was a senator for 12 years. I didn’t handle funds of line agencies back then. My being a senator, too, didn’t have legal weight, except for the oversight function of Congress. But we managed to file cases in case of shenanigans. When there are anomalies, we see to it that we guard against those kleptomaniacs.)

A former police chief, Lacson says the crackdown begins.

Days after visiting typhoon-hit Eastern Visayas, he tags a local official allegedly out to steal rehabilitation funds.

Lacson says he requested the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to look into this. He refuses to name the official, but appeals to people like him.

PING LACSON. REHABILITATION CZAR: Yun lang ang mensahe, na patawarin n’yo na muna ito. Kung talagang hindi n’yo kayang makatiis na hindi magnakaw, at least ito man lang tinamaan ng Yolanda, eh ano na lang, patawad na lang, kasi misery ng ibang tao itong pinagpipiyestahan ninyo.

(That’s the message – please spare this. If you really can’t help but steal, at least spare those affected by Yolanda. Spare them, because you’ll be feasting on the misery of others.)

For experts, the czar’s power is not enough. Ateneo School of Government dean Tony La Viña calls for a standalone disaster agency with power over the budget.

Lacson says more powers will certainly help.

PING LACSON, REHABILITATION CZAR: Definitely, kasi ang natutunan ko sa military kailangan commensurate ‘yung authority doon sa responsibility. Kasi kung hindi commensurate ‘yung authority, kulang, tapos ‘yung responsibility masyadong malaki, baka kulangin kami ng pagkukunan. (Definitely, because I learned in the military that the authority should be commensurate to the responsibility. If the authority is lacking, and the responsibility is too huge, we might end up lacking resources.)

But for now, the rehabilitation czar is out to prove he can wield a big stick, despite the handicaps.

Paterno Esmaquel, Rappler, Manila. –

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