REHABILITATION CZAR: LACSON WILL GET A CABINET RANK

Former senator Panfilo Lacson will get a Cabinet rank but his position as rehabilitation czar will not have any conflict with the portfolio of Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II and other secretaries, President Aquino said yesterday. According to Aquino, Lacson would deal with secretaries in performing his job as overseer of reconstruction efforts in areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda last month. This means his rank should be equivalent to that of a presidential adviser. Aquino said the job would not be as easy as coordinating among departments and agencies because the implementation of projects under the Yolanda rehabilitation and reconstruction plan would mean dealing with a lot of details. Aquino added that they have yet to decide where Lacson would hold office.

ALSO: Editorial: Rehabilitation Lacson

The President has since confirmed that Lacson will be appointed, to use the phrase beloved by politicians and journalists alike, the Philippines’ rehabilitation czar. But Lacson has not taken his oath yet, and there is no staff to work with just yet, because for some reason the executive order that will formally appoint him and detail his duties is still in the drafting process. At least a week has elapsed since Lacson received the offer; both chambers of Congress in that same span of time have approved a supplemental budget to help in the reconstruction.
What, exactly, are Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa and his legal team waiting for?

ALSO: Ping’s first marching order: No diversion of typhoon aid

The former senator said he hopes to make Tacloban City a model for urban redevelopment with building and houses designed to withstand strong typhoon and other calamities. He said he hopes to achieve significant progress in rehabilitation efforts by June 2016. “By that time we expect 85 percent completion to allow local governments to take over the final stage of the rehabilitation works,” he said. He also emphasized the need for massive private sector participation in the rehabilitation efforts, saying private groups and businesses have greater flexibility in terms of procuring needed materials and equipment. He also said the private sector is less burdened by bureaucratic red tape.


Lacson to get Cabinet rank

MANILA, DECEMBER 9, 2013 (PHILSTA) Former senator Panfilo Lacson will get a Cabinet rank but his position as rehabilitation czar will not have any conflict with the portfolio of Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II and other secretaries, President Aquino said yesterday.

According to Aquino, Lacson would deal with secretaries in performing his job as overseer of reconstruction efforts in areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda last month. This means his rank should be equivalent to that of a presidential adviser.

Aquino said the job would not be as easy as coordinating among departments and agencies because the implementation of projects under the Yolanda rehabilitation and reconstruction plan would mean dealing with a lot of details.

Aquino added that they have yet to decide where Lacson would hold office.

Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said over dzRB yesterday that the executive order designating Lacson as rehabilitation czar was being finalized and would be out soon.

Coloma reiterated that there should be no issue between Lacson and Roxas, who led relief efforts after Yolanda hit the Visayas along with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman.

While the government drew flak for its supposed slow response to the typhoon aftermath, there were also commentaries that it would not be easy to get things going from scratch considering the extent of the devastation.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Editorial: Rehabilitation Lacson Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:02 am | Friday, December 6th, 2013


President Aquino defended his appointment of former senator Panfilo Lacson, whom he described as a no-nonsense kind of guy that will lead government efforts in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda last Nov. 8. “Why Ping Lacson? Perhaps Ping Lacson strikes me as a no-nonsense person,” Aquino told officers and members of the weekly Bulong Pulungan media forum at the Sofitel Plaza Hotel in Pasay City.

MANILA - So Panfilo Lacson—former senator, former presidential candidate, former national police chief—will be President Aquino’s point person for the massive post-“Yolanda” rehabilitation program. At least that is what both Lacson and the President have said.

Last Sunday, Lacson announced to the media that he had accepted Mr. Aquino’s offer, made a few days previously.

The President has since confirmed that Lacson will be appointed, to use the phrase beloved by politicians and journalists alike, the Philippines’ rehabilitation czar.

But Lacson has not taken his oath yet, and there is no staff to work with just yet, because for some reason the executive order that will formally appoint him and detail his duties is still in the drafting process.

At least a week has elapsed since Lacson received the offer; both chambers of Congress in that same span of time have approved a supplemental budget to help in the reconstruction.

What, exactly, are Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa and his legal team waiting for?

(The same team was supposed to have drafted the papers that would have appointed Lacson chair of an anti-corruption initiative, something both he and the President also adverted to only recently. The papers never emerged from the Malacañang labyrinth.)

We realize there is much at stake.

There is the initial P40 billion allotted for the rehabilitation of the devastated areas in Samar and Leyte as well as parts of neighboring islands; while this is not one lump sum, it is still a considerable amount of money—and from all indications it is only the initial outlay.

Then there is the battle of perceptions that the Aquino administration finds itself waging; it cannot afford to start off on the wrong foot in the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase.

Its perceived delay in getting enough resources to the areas demolished by Yolanda in the crucial first few days has become conventional wisdom.

Then there is the fate of the survivors themselves, in Tacloban and Palo, in Ormoc, in Guiuan, in Capiz, in numerous other places; for their sake, rehabilitation must be well-planned, thorough and sustainable.

Still, there is such a thing as reasonable dispatch.

The administration needs to demonstrate a becoming sense of urgency, and the appointment of a rehabilitation czar is an opportunity to make that demonstration.

We realize that naming Lacson to the rehabilitation initiative is not without controversy.

The grisliest joke about his appointment that is circulating on social media is a reference to his reputation, back when he was in the police force, of being a man with an iron fist.

Lacson is the right man for the job, so the joke goes, because he will make all the bodies disappear.

But a case can be made that, in fact, Lacson is the right man for the job because of three significant considerations.

First, at a time when public attention is focused on the abuses of the congressional pork barrel and other lump-sum funds in the national budget, Lacson is one of the few politicians to escape with his reputation unstained by any allegation of pork abuse or corruption. Throughout his 12 years in the Senate, he had declined the use of his allocations.

The massive amount of money that will either be at his disposal or will be coursed through him would be a cause for concern with almost any other politician-appointee. That won’t be the case with him.|

Second, Lacson knows what it is to run, not only a national organization (he was President Joseph Estrada’s second appointee as chief of the Philippine National Police), but a military-like agency.

Rehabilitation work in Eastern Visayas will likely require a command structure that he will be familiar with.

Third, he is a politician of national stature. In the nitty-gritty of rehabilitation work, conflict with regional, provincial and local officials will be inevitable. Coupled with his close political alliance with the President, Lacson will have the necessary credibility to deal with all stakeholders in the process.

We can add a fourth factor. He did not immediately accept the President’s offer, but instead asked for three days to consider the matter and to consult with experts.

We take that as a good sign; he not only knows his limits but can work with specialists, too.

FROM THE PHILSTAR

Ping’s first marching order: No diversion of typhoon aid By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 3, 2013 - 12:00am


Former senator Panfilo Lacson fields questions about his new role yesterday. He hopes to achieve significant progress in rehabilitating devastated areas like Tacloban EDD GUMBAN

MANILA, Philippines - Lacson, also a former chief of the Philippine National Police, made the announcement after receiving reports that some imported food packs – particularly those donated by the US military – had ended up on the shelves of a giant supermarket chain in Metro Manila.

“We just need particular details and if we caught them we will arrest them,” Lacson told The STAR after speaking at the Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel forum in Manila.

Photos of relief goods being sold in a major grocery have made the rounds in the social media. The stolen goods reportedly came from Guiuan, Samar where US forces conducted massive relief and rescue operations.

Lacson also vowed to take immediate steps to prevent land grabbing as many houses and properties had been swept away by a storm surge during the onslaught of Yolanda.

“I will be coordinating with the Land Registration Authority (LRA) and also work closely with Vice President Jejomar Binay on housing needs of the victims,” he said. Binay is the country’s housing czar.

The former senator said he was surprised when President Aquino informed him of his new appointment at least three times. He said he had expected to be appointed to a job related to law enforcement.

“When you are talking to the President you cannot say no but I asked for two nights and after consultation with some experts I was told it’s hard but doable,” he told the Kapihan forum.

Lacson said even before his formal appointment, he was already scouting for experts in urban planning, lawyers, engineers and accountants. He said an expert urban planner had agreed to join his team but he declined to give details pending Malacañang’s officially naming him to his new job.

Private sector role

He also emphasized the need for massive private sector participation in the rehabilitation efforts, saying private groups and businesses have greater flexibility in terms of procuring needed materials and equipment. He also said the private sector is less burdened by bureaucratic red tape.

“The private sector is not bound by government procurement law,” he said.

The former senator said he hopes to make Tacloban City a model for urban redevelopment with building and houses designed to withstand strong typhoon and other calamities. He said he hopes to achieve significant progress in rehabilitation efforts by June 2016.

“By that time we expect 85 percent completion to allow local governments to take over the final stage of the rehabilitation works,” he said.

At Malacañang, Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the President is set to issue an executive order outlining Lacson’s specific tasks as well as the legal basis for his appointment.

“The full scope of his duties and responsibilities will be embodied in an executive order that will be issued,” Coloma said.

In a text message, Coloma said Aquino thanked Lacson “for accepting his (Aquino’s) invitation for him (Lacson) to assume a lead role in overseeing rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda.”

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the former senator was the only choice of Aquino for the job.

“I think, given the magnitude and the immense reconstruction efforts that will be required, the President felt that there should be a full-time individual to handle the reconstruction efforts,” he said.

“There is no issue. There is no politics here. I think the whole drive towards reconstruction is to bring back the affected areas on its feet. This is something that we look forward to in helping the affected citizens,” Lacierda said.

“All of these will be threshed out. We already have the rehabilitation plan. What Senator Lacson will be doing is to oversee the entire reconstruction, rehabilitation effort,” he added.

He emphasized that Aquino wants the job done as soon as possible with Lacson taking charge of the P40 billion or so budget for reconstruction and rehabilitation.

As rehabilitation czar, Lacson will be reporting directly to President Aquino.

And with Lacson at the helm, the heads of various agencies concerned can focus more on their respective tasks.

“He (Aquino) wanted someone who will not do it on an ad hoc basis, for instance, like a cabinet member who will be weaned away from his primary responsibility as a cabinet secretary,” Lacierda explained.

Appointment welcomed

Lacson’s appointment generally drew praises. Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said Lacson would be a “big help” to rebuilding efforts.

“Great idea, big help to have someone like him focus on this huge endeavor. All Cabinet secretaries have regular jobs that prevent total immersion only on the rehabilitation task. So having Sen. Ping on board will be a big help,” Roxas told The STAR.

Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman echoed this.

“I welcome the presence of Sen. Ping Lacson as the rehabilitation czar. It’s good to have somone there whose main focus is reconstruction and rehabilitation of all the areas of Yolanda which is big,” Soliman said.

“I welcome it because it will make our reconstruction and rehabilitation run faster because somebody is dedicated to that,” Soliman said.

Soliman, as DSWD secretary, is also the vice chairman of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s Early Recovery Cluster.

Soliman said Lacson’s appointment would allow the DSWD, as well as other government agencies, to focus on their core programs.

“We can do our work while someone is coordinating, orchestrating, the rehabilitation effort,” Soliman said.

Leaders of the House of Representatives also expressed confidence in Lacson’s fitness for the job.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. described Lacson as “straightforward, disciplined and can be expected to be dedicated to the task.”

“I think he’s up to it, carrying out a very difficult job. He’s not all military upbringing, he’s been a politician for quite some time,” Belmonte told reporters.

“I guess he’ll be dealing with people of different minds, and of course the victims, who may have different expectations,” he said.

He dismissed speculations that the appointment was a political reward from President Aquino.

“This (rehabilitation) is too important – this is a super important… make or break term so I can’t imagine that it’s a mere accommodation,” Belmonte said.

Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop attested to Lacson’s “keen leadership and ardent organizational skills necessary for the task at hand.”

“His track record as an honest and prudent manager of public funds is likewise important in view of the billions of pesos – in foreign aid and taxpayers’ money – that would be spent in the rehabilitation work,” Acop said.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, whose province was among those badly hit by Yolanda, said Lacson “has a track record of getting things done.”

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said Aquino “made the perfect choice” by appointing Lacson.

Barzaga said the country needs someone “who’s image is untainted (by) graft and corruption.”

So far, only ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio voiced opposition to Lacson’s appointment.

“What does former Sen. Lacson bring to the table? That is the question. He himself expressed initial hesitation, noting that his forte is law enforcement. It appears that the President has made the appointment mainly on the basis of political considerations,” Tinio said.

“This is unfortunate, given that the government relief and rehabilitation effort to date has already been marred by political jockeying, with allegations that delivery of aid on the ground is being influenced by political affiliations,” he said.

“It appears that not even a calamity on the magnitude of Yolanda can demolish the culture of political patronage.”

– With Paolo Romero, Rainier Allan Ronda, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Delon Porcalla


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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