Wise and necessary is the President’s appointment of former senator and former national police chief Panfilo Lacson as “czar” for the rehabilitation of the areas devastated by Typhoon Yolanda.
Some of the President’s critics, including our own Rigoberto Tiglao, have attacked Mr. Aquino for playing politics with the serious work of reconstructing and bringing back to life the towns and villages almost literally razed to the ground by Yolanda’s tsunami-like waves and bullet-train fast winds. They say Mr. Lacson’s usefulness to the President and his ruling-party coalition in the 2016 elections dictated his appointment—despite Mr. Lacson’s alleged lack of qualifications for the position.
These critics are wrong. Mr. Lacson’s track record and personal virtues, we believe, make him eminently qualified to do the work to be done, which he himself described as very difficult “but doable.”
Graduate degrees are of no avail
But the critics prefer someone with an actual graduate degree in business or public administration. They want someone with practical business management and government administration experience, which they wrongly contend Mr. Lacson does not have. Some of these critics name Secretary Mar Roxas as a better choice. Several others have been proposed, like former Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and the architect and urban planner Felino Palafox (a Manila Times columnist).
We disagree. Degrees do not an achiever of Herculean tasks make. No less than Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas disproves the need for these academic and business-management and public-administration qualifications. Mr. Manuel Araneta “Mar” Roxas has sterling credentials from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Few Filipinos can match his investment banking experience.
He has also experienced heading key government departments. He served as Trade and Industry secretary under former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. President Aquino immediately made him Transport and Communications secretary. Later, the President appointed Mr. Roxas—on Secretary Jesse Robredo’s death—top man of the department of Interior and Local Governments, the position he holds to this day.
He was doing his job as DILG secretary, with Defense Secretary Gazmin (who is the ultimate supervisor of the country’s Disaster Risk Reduction and Management system), in Tacloban, Leyte, to oversee what risk reduction preparations were being made before the imminent arrival of the supertyphoon Yolanda. Alas, Yolanda’s fury put both Cabinet secretaries in almost life-and-death difficulties in the place where they had holed in when the waters rose and the cyclone winds bore down on Tacloban. Mr. Roxas’ management degrees and vast experience as a Cabinet secretary under three presidents were of no avail in keeping him and Secretary Gazmin from being seen to be inadequate risk-reduction managers.
Effective pursuer of management objectives
Mr. Lacson’s qualifications are that of a decisive policeman, a tireless implementor of policy decisions and a focused pursuer of management objectives. These allowed him to achieve impressive results in national anti-crime programs during his term as PNP head. This is the reason the most vigilant and effective peace-and-order organizations, like the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, admire Mr. Lacson. Chinese and Chinese-Filipino businessmen and their families hail him as their savior. They appreciate his determination and effectiveness in busting up robbery and kidnap gangs who prey on Chinese-Filipinos
An incessant complaint against Mr. Lacson is that his human rights record is allegedly horrible. How he will live that down in this life is a question that prosecutors and the courts have to settle—because those who cry out as victims will not rest. How he will answer to the Highest Authority is between him and the Lord.
But the Filipino people, as an electorate, have apparently chosen to ignore his human rights record and have even forgiven him. This became manifest when they elected him senator of the land, allowing him to serve for three terms from 2001 to 2013.
Perhaps one reason for the Filipino majority’s favorable view of Panfilo “Ping” Lacson is that he has another virtue few public persons in our country possess. He has proved himself to be a man of integrity in financial matters. Friends and neutral observers find him to be a man of his word. He is known to be an ascetic. He and his family maintain a simple lifestyle.
Throughout his tenure as a senator he has been exemplary, among other things, in opposing the pork barrel system. Unlike others who speak against the PDAF in principle but embrace pork in practice, Mr. Lacson has never touched a centavo of pork because he views it as unjust—to ordinary Filipinos especially the poor.
The rehabilitation of the areas Yolanda ravaged right now has a fund of P41 billion. More money will come from abroad and the government coffers in the next three years. The power of wielding so much money will damage a person of softer stuff against corruption than Panfilo Lacson.
Ping Lacson’s proven integrity—added to his decisiveness and focus on meeting objectives—makes him the most qualified among those President Aquino could have appointed Rehabilitation Czar.