Lacson: Not enough land for relocations
The biggest problem in the rehabilitation of Eastern Visayas, which was ravaged by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” last November, is the lack of land, according to former senator Panfilo Lacson, now the presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery.
Lacson told the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday morning that with the “no-build” zones on the shorelines that were flattened by the storm surges spawned by Yolanda, tens of thousands of families who used to live there have to be relocated inland. And there is not enough land for their homes, he said, adding that he has asked the government to open public lands to the families and to expropriate private lands to be used as relocation sites.
He also said rehabilitation work seems to be proceeding slowly to some people, but that it is because his office wants to be sure a similar disaster will not happen again. Multihazard maps are being made of the relocation sites, he said. The hazards are not only typhoons and storm surges but also floods, landslides, earthquakes, etc. The safety of the relocated residents has to be ensured, he said.
Why not build medium-rise buildings in order to save on land? Lacson was asked.
That would be too expensive, he replied. Besides, people in the provinces do not like to live close to one another. They want to live in single-detached homes. That is why they do not like the bunkhouses constructed for them—because there is hardly any privacy.
However, Lacson said, economic rehabilitation in some areas like Cebu and Leyte is 90 percent complete.
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The public may finally be able to see the lists of more than a hundred lawmakers, Cabinet members, and other government officials who supposedly received kickbacks and commissions from the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles.
The lists were given to Lacson (by Napoles’ husband Jimmy) and to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima (by Napoles herself). Both Lacson and De Lima have said they would surrender their lists to the Senate if the latter asked for them. Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, has in fact issued a subpoena for the De Lima list. Lacson said he had spoken Guingona and other senators and told them that he would either testify on the contents of the list and draft affidavit given him by Jimmy Napoles, a former Marine major, or turn these over to the blue ribbon committee. The committee can then make the list public.
Lacson told the Kapihan that the list contained the names of nine incumbent senators and three former senators as well as 90 incumbent and former congressmen and many other public officials, including two incumbent Cabinet members who took advantage of their Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations when they were still members of the House of Representatives. Lacson refused to name them.
Pressed by the journalists present to provide even just the initials of the government officials concerned, Lacson declined. One asked if Senate President Franklin Drilon, was in the list, and Lacson refused to reply. “I know what you are going to do: By getting the names of senators who are not in the list, by the process of elimination you will then have the senators in the list,” he said, chuckling. (He has since named names in a TV interview on Monday night.)
Lacson said he also had a chance to look at the list of whistle-blower Benhur Luy and found that two senators in the Napoles list do not appear in Luy’s list. He said that if the two lists were combined, there would be 21 past and incumbent senators listed. His earlier count was 16. Of the 21, he said, 12 were incumbent, including Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla.
Lacson repeated his warning that if the Napoles list would be made public, the Senate might collapse. “If public trust in the Senate is further eroded,” he said, “won’t that have a national-security implication?”
He said that he wanted to meet with De Lima for a comparison of lists, and that he would turn over his list to the Department of Justice if he is asked to. However, the Senate has asked for the list in Lacson’s possession, as well as the list given to De Lima by Napoles herself during a five-hour “tell all” meeting in her room at the Ospital ng Makati, where she underwent an operation for suspected cancer of the uterus.
De Lima had earlier said Napoles was afraid for her safety and bothered by her conscience on the eve of the surgery and decided to unburden herself, presumably in the hope of being accepted as a state’s witness and gaining immunity from criminal charges. De Lima said, however, that Napoles did not ask for immunity during their meeting.
Lacson told the Kapihan that he informed President Aquino last week about the list given to him by Napoles’ husband. “He seemed surprised but not worried,” Lacson said, “and repeated his policy that the inquiry should proceed where the evidence will lead the investigation.” A number of the President’s allies, including the two incumbent Cabinet members, are on the lists.
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