MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 10:57PM) The task of overseeing the rehabilitation of Eastern Visayas, which suffered the brunt of super typhoon “Yolanda” early this month has been offered to former Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, ranking government sources said Saturday.
One of the sources said the official announcement could be expected “soon.”
However, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, sought for comment, said there was as yet “no basis to confirm” the information.
If appointed, Lacson, a known ally of President Benigno Aquino III, will be effectively in charge of the P41 billion the Cabinet estimates will be needed for the rehabilitation and construction of Yolanda-stricken areas.
The estimate was arrived at during a meeting late Friday night, the second called by Aquino to discuss post-Yolanda rehabilitation this week.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the upward adjustment from the earlier estimate of P38.8 billion was agreed on “after factoring in the verified requirements for local government buildings and facilities, police and fire stations, and public markets.”
Pamalakaya: martial law in Eastern Visayas?
Not everyone is excited about the looming appointment, however. The militant federation of small fisherfolk organizations, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), reminded Malacanang that the victims of the devastating typhoon were not asking for a “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 month.
“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,” Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France asked late Saturday night, as the he chided President Aquino for allowing “a Martial Law figure during the dark years of the Marcos dictatorship to come back to life as rehabilitation czar in Eastern Samar and Leyte provinces.” He was referring to Lacson’s stint, as a young officer, in the Metropolitan Intelligence Security Group (MISG), later accused of human rights violations. Before being elected senator, Lacson had also served as director general of the Philippine National Police in the Estrada presidency.
“Aquino and his men are really obsessed in dealing the humanitarian crisis in Eastern Visayas with police brutality and authoritarian rule. The designation of Lacson, a well known implementor of Martial Law, is a direct affront to the people of Eastern Visayas and to the collective interest of the people,” the Pamalakaya official said.