Lacson accepts job as ‘Yolanda’ rehab czar

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Former Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson has accepted President Benigno Aquino’s offer for him to be the rehabilitation czar who will oversee reconstruction in the regions that Supertyphoon “Yolanda” devastated last month.

Lacson said Sunday night that Mr. Aquino had acknowledged his acceptance of the offer to oversee the rehabilitation efforts of the government that would cost more than P40 billion.

In a text message to the Inquirer, Lacson said he accepted “the job offer after getting a series of briefings over the weekend from experts of the field of reconstruction and rehabilitation of disaster-stricken areas.”

As the rehabilitation czar, Lacson will manage not only funding from the government but also foreign assistance running into tens of millions of dollars meant for towns and cities in central Philippines.

He said Mr. Aquino offered the position to him at a meeting in Malacañang last week. But he said he asked the President that he be given three days to “mull it over” and to “conduct consultations with experts in connection with the rebuilding of towns and cities decimated by the supertyphoon.”

“When the President asked me if I could be in charge of rehabilitation efforts, I did not immediately say, ‘Yes,’ and asked for time to think about it because I know it’s a daunting task and it’s also not my area of expertise,” he said.

Had the President offered something in the line of law enforcement, Lacson said he would have immediately said yes.

He was earlier reported to be the choice of the administration to head an anticorruption commission.

Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief, said he was reluctant to immediately accept the offer to become the rehabilitation czar because he did not want to do a haphazard job.

“I want to do the job with flying colors. I want to do the best for the job,” he said.

Lacson was known to have not touched his pork barrel during his 12-year stint in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano earlier pushed for Lacson to investigate the pork barrel scam “because of his impeccable record against corruption and his unwavering stand against the pork barrel.”

It has been three weeks since Yolanda decimated the provinces of Samar and Leyte, destroying houses and infrastructure and displacing millions of people.

Mr. Aquino has increased the proposed funding for communities devastated by Yolanda from P38.8 billion to P40.9 billion. The money was expected to go to housing, infrastructure, livelihood and employment opportunities, local facilities and social services.

The entire P40.9 billion could be fully funded in the 2013 General Appropriations Act. Last week, the Senate passed a P14.5-billion supplemental budget.

Yolanda devastated 171 municipalities, covering 4,971 villages in an area of 25,000 square kilometers and affecting 6.6 million people.

As of Sunday, the death toll stood at 5,632, with 26,136 people injured and 1,759 missing.

Originally posted: 8:40 pm | Sunday, December 1st, 2013

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