Why we ought to keep Panfilo Lacson in mind
IN APRIL 2001, a US Navy surveillance plane on a mission off the Chinese coast, collided with a Chinese fighter jet that was closely tailing it. The Chinese jet crashed into the waters, killing the pilot. The spy plane that landed on Hainan Island was eventually released to US authorities after protracted negotiations.
Last week, Chinese personnel stationed on Kagitingan Reef in the Spratlys, demanded eight times that a US Navy P8-A Poseidon surveillance craft flying over the reef, leave the area immediately. Reports indicate that almost 800 hectares have been reclaimed from the sea, creating artificial islands capable of handling military aircraft.
In response, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called for “an immediate and lasting halt” to reclamation works by all claimants. He described China’s actions as “out of step with both international rules and norms.”
What are we doing? So far, it seems like business as usual but there are a few voices calling for more action.
In the face of the massive reclamation project by China on Kagitingan Reef, one of the first to be heard calling for the convening of the National Security Council was former senator Panfilo Lacson. He said that such a meeting would be an opportunity for President Aquino to discuss possible scenarios and options for dealing with a national security crisis that is quickly building up in the West Philippine Sea. The mere convening of the council could send a message to the outside world that our people are united in the face of threats to our territorial integrity.
Backgrounder: The National Security Council is the president’s principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with senior advisors and Cabinet officials. The council was created during the Quirino administration in July 1950. It was reorganized in 1986 under President Cory Aquino. In 2001, President Gloria Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 34 reconstituting the council to further enhance the formulation of policies affecting national security. Its present composition consists of President Aquino as chair, with the following as members: Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia, majority and minority congressional leaders, Cabinet members, past presidents of the Philippines. From time to time, the president may appoint and designate other government officials and private citizens as he deems fit.
It is difficult to understand P-Noy’s reluctance to convene the National Security Council in the face of the gravest danger facing the nation since World War II. Perhaps, we could have avoided the Mamasapano massacre if he had sought advice from other officials like former senator and rehab czar Panfilo Lacson, instead of relying mainly on the likes of suspended Police Director General Alan Purisima, even to the extent of keeping his interior secretary out of the loop on such a delicate operation.
Law and order
Aside from the West Philippine Sea crisis, we are facing a serious deterioration in law and order throughout the country, with kidnappings on the rise as criminal elements view the coming election campaign as a convenient cover for their activities. A recent documentary by CNN Philippines dwelt on how recovered stolen vehicles were being stored in various locations while awaiting payment of grease money for their release.
Remember what Lacson did when he was chief of the Philippine National Police?
He ordered the release of recovered vehicles to their rightful owners and disciplined police officers found using these vehicles for their personal needs. Discipline is what any organization, particularly a police organization, needs if it is to gain the respect of the community. Sadly, for the past six months the PNP has been headless, operating under an officer-in-charge who is preparing for his retirement next month.
Stability under pressure
In one of the more famous hostage situations in the country involving a Gokongwei family member, Lacson was the leader of the team that effected the release of the victim without any ransom being paid and with no one killed during the rescue operation. Contrast this to what happened at the Luneta a few years ago resulting in several Hong Kong tourists being killed by bungling police elements in a shabby rescue effort.
Now more than ever, we need a steady hand at the helm, one who knows what to do and can do it with competence.
Fear of Lacson
Some people say there is a dark side to Ping Lacson. His name has been linked to some of the more sensational crime cases in Philippine history. A case in point: For many years, the notorious Kuratong Baleleng gang posed a danger to our community. A shootout with police elements led by Lacson resulted in the death of gang members. Some people say it was a rubout, noting that the victims were in the custody of the police when the supposed shootout took place. Lacson was charged in court. He was acquitted. We have not heard of the Kuratong Baleleng gang or their successors since then.
I go back to one of my favorite quotes from Lee Kuan Yew: “Between being loved and feared, I have always believed Machiavelli was right. If nobody is afraid of me, I am meaningless. When I say something… I have to be taken very seriously.”
It is good that Lacson is feared. I don’t wish for death squads to be roaming around my community. But on the other hand, a few of the more notorious criminals and drug pushers should be allowed to join their ancestors without too much red tape. Filipinos must fear their leader. Love is fine, but at times fear is much more effective.
On PDAF or “pork barrel”
How many Filipinos do you know have turned down a P200 million-a-year offer on a silver platter? As a senator, this means that Ping Lacson did not touch P1.2 billion in pork barrel funds that he could have accepted and used for anything, and I mean anything!
One last word, and let me speak in terms of ice cream flavors. For many Filipinos, Sen. Grace “Vanilla” Poe is the current flavor of the season. “Vanilla” refers not just to her complexion but also the purity of her ideas and her sense of justice. It is a well-deserved recognition of her independent streak and uncompromising spirit in the fight against corruption in government. The nation is fortunate to have her at this critical juncture of our history.
My favorite has always been “Rocky Road.” For several years, Ping Lacson has traveled on a rocky road with many obstacles being thrown his way. He continues to overcome them.
Lacson and Poe or Poe and Lacson represent a team anchored on integrity, experience and competence.