Aquino’s appointment of Gen. Panfilo Lacson as the “rehabilitation czar” in typhoon-affected areas is the same as appointing Gen. Jovito Palparan to a plum position in government. Nothing in Lacson’s bloody record indicate his competence to handle the rehabilitation communities affected by Typhoon Yolanda. In fact, he is most known as a notorious torturer during the Martial Law period and his involvement in high-profile cases of rights abuses such as the disappearance of PR consultant Salvador “Bubby” Dacer in November 2000.
Lacson is said to be among those responsible for the disappearance of Redemptorist priest Fr. Rudy Romano in Cebu in 1985 and the torture of activists Marco Palo, Joseph Olayer, Manuel Mario Guzman, Rolando Salutin and Rodolfo Benosa in 1983, when he was part of the Metrocom Intelligence and Security Group (MISG). He was also charged with multiple murder cases in the death of 11 suspected members of the Kuratong Baleleng in 1995.
The appointment of another favoured ally of BS Aquino who is most known for human rights violations is adding insult to injury. This shows the real intention of BS Aquino—to silence any emerging discontent of hungry and neglected victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
We need a government that understands the plight of the poor people, look at things from their perspective, and support the people’s efforts to rebuild their communities. Even before the typhoon wrought havoc in Samar and Leyte, these communities were already poverty-stricken, thus, making people vulnerable to the impact of natural and man-made calamities. There was neither economic security nor basic services for the people. Efforts to rehabilitate and reconstruct the areas hit by the typhoon require a full grasp of the situation in these communities, especially of the poor peasants, fisherfolks, and workers.
The government should have prioritized the implementation of genuine land reform, quality health services, education and housing, infrastructure development to spare or shield the people from the impact of natural calamities. That would also ensure a speedy recovery after a calamity hits the communities.
Appointing human rights violator Lacson to oversee rehabilitation efforts for typhoon-affected areas is a dangerous signal that only reeks of political patronage and looming rights violations, rather than genuine intent for the reconstruction and rehabilitation for the typhoon victims.
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