MANILA, Philippines – A source told The STAR yesterday that Lacson was seen at the Palace before the weekend as he spoke with the President at the private office.
The meeting last Friday was arranged by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and lasted more than an hour, according to the source.
Aquino reportedly told members of the Cabinet about his plan to tap Lacson as rehabilitation and reconstruction czar during a meeting at Malacañang, also last Friday.
But until yesterday, Palace officials refused to confirm the pending designation of Lacson, who was earlier reportedly being eyed to head a proposed anti-corruption agency.
What Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. underscored was the need for a rehabilitation czar in the aftermath of the massive devastation brought by Yolanda.
Coloma told radio dzRB yesterday that last week’s Cabinet meeting delved on how the national government would go about its rehabilitation plan in Eastern Visayas.
“The main focus of the Cabinet meeting was not on any particular individual, but on the rehabilitation program itself,” he said, but added that Lacson is known to have a good track record in public service.
“He served as director general of the Philippine National Police before he was elected senator. His track record in the Senate was very good, being a legislator and a public servant,” he said.
Coloma said overseeing the government’s rehabilitation efforts is a “huge responsibility” and this may be an additional burden to heads of various agencies tasked to implement the plan.
He cited the succession of natural disasters that struck the country from typhoon Pablo in 2012, the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that jolted central Visayas last October, typhoon Santi which hit central Luzon also last October, and Yolanda which killed over 5,000 people.
“We have to remember that typhoon Yolanda was only one of the series of calamities that we have been following up until now. Yolanda was the last but had the widest destruction,” he said. “That is the situation that is leading us to the question on how we can best implement the rehabilitation program.”
No to ‘police state’
Meanwhile, a militant federation of small fisherfolk organizations in the country opposed the looming appointment of Lacson as rehabilitation czar.
In a press statement, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) yesterday reminded Malacañang that the victims of Yolanda were not asking for “police state” but complete and genuine rehabilitation program to bring back their lives to normal following the human disaster the hit the region and 34 more provinces last Nov. 8.
“What is this? A forthcoming imposition of martial law in Eastern Visayas with super cop Panfilo Lacson at the helm of the rehabilitation program of the state? This is not rehabilitation, this is authoritarian rule in the making,” said Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France.
He said that once appointed, Lacson will effectively be in charge of the P41-billion budget which the Cabinet estimates will be needed for the rehabilitation of Yolanda-stricken areas.
“The news about Lacson’s future role as rehabilitation chief of the Aquino administration appears like the revival of full-blown martial law in areas affected by Yolanda. It is like Aquino paying homage to martial rule and to the very system that sent his father to the grave,” Pamalakaya said.
Source” Philippine Star
Local chapters of Pamalakaya are also planning to challenge the constitutionality of the soon-to-be released Malacañang executive order declaring the country’s coastlines as off-limit zones even to small fisherfolk and coastal residents.
The group said the order will be used by Lacson as a legal instrument to demolish coastal communities.