Presidential Adviser on Rehabilitation and Recovery Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday expressed frustration over the “limitations” of his job which he said is aggravated by uncooperative Cabinet secretaries and local government officials.
“I am really frustrated. Because when I want to do something, I want it done right away. But sometimes you can’t do it because it’s beyond my authority. That’s not within my authority to get things done the way I want it done because there is protocol. We follow international protocol and the law. And I am bound by MO [Memorandum Order] 62 that says in so many words my limits,” Lacson said at a press briefing in Malacanang.
The former senator said he should be given the power to implement by revising the presidential order that created his office and defined his functions. According to him, it would be ideal if MO 62 is amended to give his office more teeth.
“That is the ideal situation, I hope it’s changed and the executive order replaced. But I cannot demand. If that’s given to me, then I have to live with it and I’ll maximize my actions given the limitation. That is always my attitude,” Lacson said.
He said he finds fulfilment in being part of rebuilding the areas devastated by the “strongest typhoon that ever hit the planet.”
“I always say that failure is never an option. We must succeed not only for myself but for the victims, the survivors of Yolanda; and for the safety of those who would be hit by future disasters. We can learn so many lessons from this exercise,” he pointed out.
Lacson considers the model for rehabilitation efforts as the one carried out in Banda Aceh following its devastation by the 2004 tsunami.
The appointed rehabilitation czar in Banda Aceh, Pak Kuntoro, accomplished his mission in eight years and he “had all the authority that he needed,” Lacson said.
“He had actually near absolute authority given to him. It took him five months to negotiate for his powers and everything was given to him… He was wallowing in resources and that made his job easy,” he said.
The resources for Banda Aceh’s recovery amounted to $7.1 billion and only $4.1 billion was only utilized.
Lacson attributed Kuntoro’s success to his “authority or mandate to control the budget, implement and do-it thing, of course, under the existing laws.”
He said he will ask President Benigno Aquino 3rd to approve his recommendation to “go province by province” and to allow cluster groups to immediately implement their submitted rehabilitation plans.
“It is unfair for the hardworking, the proactive to just wait for the lazy,” he pointed out.
Right now, he said, he is practically “breaking the law” by going beyond his mandated tasks only to see his plans implemented.
“We are in effect, you know… To say it undiplomatically, we are breaking the law,” added Lacson.
Lascson said two Cabinet Secretaries are “uncooperative,” and there are local government executives who are “deadma”, a colloquial term meaning unresponsive or aloof.
“There are some who are ‘deadma’… Those who do not care while knowing that coordination should be cohesive,” he said.
Lacson did not name the two Cabinet officials but he could be referring to Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas and Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla who are both Liberal Party members.
“They know who they are. About two or three of them,” he said.
Lacson said he is hamstrung by the delays in the lateral coordination with the officials who have been ignoring his requests.
“They say nothing at all. Isn’t that frustrating?” he asked, adding “They do not even respond to official communication and phone calls.”
Lacson also lamented the fact that up to now, he has no permanent office to speak with and that he only has to “squat” in an office provided by a friend in the private sector.
“If I waited for the office, we would be holding meetings at the coffee shop. Up to now we don’t have an office in Malacanang,” he said.
JOEL M. SY EGCO