Lacson blasts politicians obstructing rehab efforts

by Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jan 23 2014 12:19 PM | Updated as of Jan 28 2014 03:50 PM

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction (PARR) Panfilo Lacson on Thursday criticized some politicians who are hampering rehabilitation efforts in typhoon-hit areas.

Speaking to reporters at the Experts Forum on Rebuilding Communities and Ecosystems After "Yolanda" at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), Lacson said some politicians who "are standing in the way" are making rehabilitation efforts more difficult.

"Meron talagang ayaw mag-cooperate. Okay lang sa amin yan. Huwag na lang sila mag-cooperate pero huwag sila mag-stand in the way. Huwag silang mag-obstruct kung ayaw nila tumulong. Pero there are those who seem to be obstructing the rehab efforts," he said.

"I have a list. But sabi ko nga, I'll just deal with them sooner or later. The list is just a short list compared to the long list of those who are in, yung mga gustong tumulong. And it keeps on growing."

Lacson, however, said these actions by certain politicians are not enough to warrant filing of charges.

"Ang sinasabi kong fa-file-an ang humihingi ng kickback sa mga project," he said.

It was earlier alleged that the bunkhouses meant for survivors of typhoon "Yolanda" were overpriced, with some officials receiving kickbacks of as much as 30% of the project cost.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has since been tapped to look into the allegations.

Lacson said he will run after those behind the anomaly, even if they are close to the administration or not.

"I’m in constant touch with CIDG people. Sabi nila they have enough information but how to translate that information into solid evidence, that’s another matter. So yan pinagkakaabalahan nila ngayon," he said.

'REHAB WORK A DAUNTING TASK'

Lacson also admitted that given the limitations, the massive task of rebuilding towns and cities flattened by Yolanda is a daunting one.

He said, during his meeting with Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, the Indonesian Senior Minister who oversaw the rehabilitation of Aceh, Indonesia following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the latter disclosed that coordination among concerned entities emerged as a problem in the rehabilitation efforts.

"Coming as it did from somebody who was coordinating from a position of near absolute authority spelled out in a decree issued by the president to make sure that he succeed in his gargantuan task, I keep on wondering how I will handle my own version of coordination while armed only with a presidential memorandum order?" he said in his keynote speech in the forum.

"This compounds, if not, exacerbates, the job of reconstruction."

Lacson was former Philippine National Police chief.

He said the limitations of his office is one of the reasons why engaging the private sector in rehabilitation efforts has become important.

"I learned to live with that. With all the limitations and constraints ng authority na binigay sa akin as PARR, I learned to live with that. Kaya we are concentrating more on engaging the private sector, mas madaling kausap," he said.

Nonetheless, Lacson assured the public that the government continues to "untangle the knots created by political squabbling and personal differences."

Lacson said part of efforts to ensure transparency is the creation of a map-based website showing where the donations went.

He added the delivery of the "minimum must," such as the construction of schools, gymnasiums, and multi-purpose halls resilient enough to serve as emergency evacuation centers for residents, will be done in the coming weeks.

MULTI-DONOR FUND

The rehabilitation czar also announced that a multi-donor fund has been created to fast-track rehabilitation efforts in the devastated areas.

Lacson said the fund was created for those "who want to just part with their money out of the goodness of their hearts but do not have the organization or time to commit to this humanitarian effort."

He said the fund will be managed by "very credible and top executives" from ABS-CBN Corp., GMA Network, Philippine Long Distance Company, Smart Communications, Globe Telecom, as well as SGV founder Washington SyCip.

The rehabilitation chief said the fund will be opened as soon as the initial donations entrusted to Taiwan-based Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) arrive.

The first set of accounts (Dollar savings account no. 105-310-463-926 and Peso savings account no. 005-310-633-988) has been opened at the BDO Ayala Avenue branch.

Lacson said other savings account will be opened soon in Metrobank, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, Philippine National Bank, and Bank of the Philippine Islands.

Lacson said some companies, meanwhile, have committed to get directly involved in rehabilitation efforts.

He said 9 sponsors have agreed to take the lead in the reconstruction and rehabilitation works in 16 of the 24 typhoon-hit clustered areas.

Ten "sectoral sponsors" have also committed to support the needs in the education, health, housing and livelihood sectors.

"In between, we have been getting generous amounts of supports from multilaterals, private firms and other organizations from all corners of the world - from our neighbors in Asia to the western world," he said.