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Inspired or mad?

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There’s the Rub

Inspired or mad?

/ 12:00 AM December 04, 2013

P-Noy has appointed Ping Lacson rehabilitation czar. That is either inspired or mad. But then the line distinguishing inspiration from madness is a very fine one.

The post is specifically for the rehabilitation of Leyte and the other areas struck down by Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” But you never know, it could cover other disaster areas in time. P-Noy made the offer last week, and Lacson begged for a couple of days to think it over. It seemed a little out of his depth, his expertise having more to do with fighting corruption. But he soon overcame his reluctance and accepted the job.

I’ve always been of two minds about Lacson. His own record against fighting corruption is double-edged. On the downside, he was Erap’s fair-haired boy, the one person Erap was grooming to succeed him. For which Erap was building a treasure chest by means fair and foul, but largely foul, until fate, and Erap’s own antics, threw a monkey wrench into their plans.

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Undeterred by the misfortune, Lacson ran in 2004 with little hope of victory and succeeded only in taking votes away from Fernando Poe Jr. Which sparked suspicions he might have been persuaded to run by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But which he dispelled by taking a staunch position against Gloria afterward and getting hounded for the murder of Bubby Dacer for his pains. To this day, no one really knows whether it was folly or profit that impelled him to run in 2004.

Then only this year, he got into a scrape with Miriam Defensor-Santiago, showing the world he wasn’t scared of her bullying tactics, calling her a “crusading crook,” an epithet that is probably going to hound her for the rest of her life. Santiago never got to get back at him. But what took the sting out of Lacson’s own rebuke was that it was done in defense of Juan Ponce Enrile. Santiago had been bearing down on Enrile before Lacson took her to task for it. Which raised the question: Miriam might be a crusading crook, but what did that make of Johnny? And the person defending him?

From the other end, true enough Lacson hasn’t figured in any corruption scandal. More to the point, which has been of great concern of late, he hasn’t used his pork at all. He is one of two senators to have not done so, the other being Joker Arroyo, proving that you can go through life as a legislator without ever needing pork and without being remiss in your duties to your constituents. Lacson was Alan Peter Cayetano’s choice to investigate the pork barrel scam “because of his impeccable record against corruption and his unwavering stand against the pork barrel.” Until he got steered in this direction.

That brings us to the inspired part.

Is having a record for being reasonably clean, or indeed for crusading against corruption, a necessary qualification for rebuilding Tacloban and environs?

It helps. After the slack has come inundation. After the period when nothing seemed to be getting to the hungry and thirsty, the grieving and desperate, relief has burst in like a, well, storm surge, wave upon wave of relief goods crashing onto Tacloban’s shores in particular. Though other places in Leyte and Samar continue to complain of little or nothing coming their way. Voices have been raised over the Department of Social Welfare and Development stamping relief with its logo, which have not been stilled by its assurances this was done to assure the safety and quality of the goods. Or worse, relief being diverted into commerce.

Relief has turned into a fortune, and what has turned into a fortune is a potential source of corruption in this country. So, yes, it helps that the new rehabilitation czar is seen as straight and straight-talking.

It helps even more that Lacson is seen as decisive and efficient. A friend puts it this way: He may be a murderous crusader but he is not a crusading crook. He gets the job done. He should have been in Tacloban from Day One to oversee things, argues my friend, instead of Mar Roxas. Tacloban was the third time P-Noy put Roxas in charge, and it was the third time he choked. The first was when P-Noy brought him along to Laguna and he ended up calling Napoles “Ma’am Janet.” The second was when P-Noy brought him along to Zamboanga and he couldn’t decide what to do with Nur Misuari. The third was when P-Noy brought him along to Tacloban and he drove a wedge between the national government and the local one.

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Who knows?—my friend says. Had Lacson been there, the riots might never have happened. Or they might not have drawn in the criminal elements. Lacson’s presence might have served fair warning there was a new sheriff in town.

It helps still more that though he is not entirely politically neutral, he is not politically entrenched in P-Noy’s camp either, which Roxas is as head of the Liberal Party, as electoral foe of the Romualdezes, and as a looming presidential candidate. He has shown he has a mind of his own, speaking out against the Disbursement Acceleration Program only a month ago, calling it a “fiscal dictatorship.” While at this, it should help P-Noy’s own cause as well that he has started looking outside of the box, or beyond the cocoon of his small and jealous circle, and trusting in the instincts or capabilities of someone who can disagree with him.

Lacson will certainly be no pushover for the individuals and groups from inside or outside who may want to push him aside, though the inside seems more threatening than the outside. Particularly as 2016 nears, and particularly given that, as climate change grinds on and more disasters follow, the post of rehabilitation czar becomes more and more powerful. Enough to rekindle the embers of moribund presidential ambitions. But for the nonce, P-Noy’s decision to appoint Lacson to the post seems, well, either inspired or mad.

Maybe inspired madness?

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Conrado de Quiros, Oanfilo Lacson, opinion, Rehabilitation czar, There’s the Rub, Yolanda
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