Ping Lacson speaks loud and clear
Panfilo “Ping” Lacson turned 71 on June 1. He belongs to Class 1971 of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), one of two members of the class in the Senate. The other is Gregorio Honasan II, whose term ends on June 30.
Some time before martial law was declared, a team of constabulary operatives raided the home of my cousin on suspicion of illegal firearms. There were firearms in the house, some unregistered, but my cousin was more of a gun collector than a gunrunner of sorts. Eventually, things were cleared up and I later found out that the head of the raiding party was a young PMA graduate, Lt. Panfilo Lacson.
Over the years, Lacson has been involved in some of the most sensational criminal cases in the country. He was head of Task Force Habagat, a key element of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission under President Joseph Estrada. Habagat was the most effective force in the campaign against kidnapping, with its dismantling of the feared Red Scorpion Gang led by Alfredo de Leon.
In the Kuratong Baleleng shootout resulting in the death of 11 members of the gang, and the Salvador “Bubby” Dacer-Emmanuel Corbito murder case, Lacson was a defendant facing murder charges. He was acquitted by the lower courts in both cases, with the Supreme Court reviewing and affirming their decisions.
Times have changed. Lacson has slowly reinvented himself from that of a crime fighter to a fighter speaking up for higher national interests.
When China started massive reclamation projects on Kagitingan Reef in the Spratlys, Lacson was one of the first to call for the convening of the National Security Council (NSC). He said that this would provide an opportunity for President Benigno Aquino III to discuss possible courses of action for dealing with the national security crisis that was building up in the West Philippine Sea. Unfortunately, Aquino was reluctant to convene the NSC.
In 2003, Lacson delivered a speech at the Senate, “Living Without Pork,” detailing the evils of pork and explaining his refusal to accept Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations of P200 million a year. Can you imagine anyone turning down P200 million a year, offered on a silver platter?
The Supreme Court ruled that the PDAF was unconstitutional, providing legal backing for Lacson’s position, but even with this ruling our legislators continue to make insertions in the national budget to satisfy their craving for pork. Lacson has remained vigilant in scrutinizing budget insertions, speaking out when he felt these insertions had all the earmarks of pork. The approval of the 2019 budget was delayed for several months because he spotted some P95 billion in pork funds that President Duterte deleted when he finally signed the national budget.
On the recent “little maritime accident” involving 22 Filipino fishermen whose boat, Gem-Vir 1, was rammed by a Chinese vessel at Recto Bank, Lacson called out the President’s remarks about the collision as “heartbreaking” and “insulting.” He said that a “vehicular hit-and-run is bad but with fishing vessels when you are left to die in the high seas, and there are 22 of them, that is really a criminal act.” Lacson added that Mr. Duterte’s description of the incident was “disappointing, to say the least, not so much by his insulting remarks but his self-limiting course of action that disregards an effective weapon in our arsenal, the Mutual Defense Treaty.”
In light of these developments, there is talk of a Lacson for President movement. Recall that in the 2004 presidential election, Lacson was one of the candidates. He ran as an independent and finished third behind Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Fernando Poe Jr., but ahead of Raul Roco and Bro. Eddie Villanueva. A 2022 run has not been ruled out but Lacson himself has often replied “show me the numbers,” before he would make any firm commitment.
Obviously, when one is as strongly opposed to pork as Lacson has been, not too many politicians, particularly at the local government level, would be encouraged to support you and this support is needed. But if there is one thing Lacson has to offer, it is leadership. It is also good that because of his earlier background, he is feared. Filipinos must fear their leader. Love is fine but fear is more effective. As Lee Kuan Yew once said, “If nobody is afraid of me, I am meaningless. When I say something … I have to be taken seriously.”
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