The Daily Tribune – Lacson back at Senate amid ‘Yolanda’ rehab row

By Angie M. Rosales | The Daily Tribune

The-Daily-TribuneMonths after ending his most recent term at the Senate, rehabilitation czar, former Sen. Panfilo Lacson, will return to the upper chamber but on the other side of the fence as a resource person to a Senate panel inquiring into alleged anomalies and involvement of some politicians in the construction of purported substandard bunkhouses, serving as temporary shelters for families left homeless by supertyphoon “Yolanda.”

Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate public works committee, ordered the issuance of an invitation to Lacson, as well as Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson for an inquiry on Wednesday, Jan. 29.

“I believe Lacson could provide the committee with invaluable information that would help us shed light on the alleged anomaly surrounding the construction of the bunkhouses for Yolanda survivors,” Marcos said.

Lacson, who was tapped by the administration as Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery, earlier bared that the construction of bunkhouses is under investigation after receiving information on it being substandard.

Lacson also warned those “in the way” of his work that he will not hesitate to go after them adding he had drawn up a list of those who have tried to hamper reconstruction efforts.

“I have a list. But (as I said), I’ll just deal with them sooner or later. The list is just a short list compared to the long list of those who are in or those who wanted to help,” he said.

Lacson added he is awaiting the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to probe those allegedly engaged in graft in the reconstruction.

He said his office will make sure it will lodge charges against those responsible, once evidence warrants.

“Once the evidence gathered will warrant the filing of criminal charges against those responsible, we will not hesitate, no matter how close they are to the administration or no matter what affiliations they have, political or otherwise,” he said.

“While I adhere to a policy of inclusion, I will not hesitate to go after people regardless of political affiliation who will put personal interest and belief upon the mission and goal set by the President,” he said.

“Roughly translated… it’s either you’re in, or in the way,” he added.

In the meantime, Lacson said his office will continue coordinating with local government officials regardless of their political affiliation.

“We’ll continue coordinating with them after all that’s my mandate but I will think or devise some way of dealing with them more vigorously,” he said.

Marcos, in filing his Resolution 439, said there were also reports on supposed collusion between favored contractors and local politicians and that some of the contractors are not following the specifications set by the DPWH.

Singson had denied the alleged overpricing and even vowed to resign if such reports were proven true.

He, however, admitted the possibility that some of the specifications in the construction of the bunkhouses were not followed.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago also filed a separate resolution likewise seeking a probe on the same issue, noting reports that some 203 bunkhouses being constructed by DPWH in Leyte and Eastern Samar allegedly did not comply with internationally-recognized standards and best practices.

“This controversy multiplies the suffering of our countrymen in the typhoon-affected areas, as they faced devastation from a natural disaster and the evils of corruption,” she said.

Also called as resource person in this week’s hearing is architect and urban planner Felino Palafox who insisted that the bunkhouses were “substandard and undersized, and they are not fit for human habitation.”

“It is crucial to look into these issues to make sure that the victims of Yolanda will no longer be victimized further by corruption and abuses perpetrated by the callous culprits who take advantage of the desolate condition in the affected areas,” Marcos said in his resolution.

The probe, he added, is aimed at instituting corrective measures to ensure the safety and security of those displaced by typhoon Yolanda.

Marcos said he also invited architect and urban planner Felino Palafox who insisted that the bunkhouses were “substandard and undersized, and they are not fit for human habitation.”

“It is crucial to look into these issues to make sure that the victims of Yolanda will no longer be victimized further by corruption and abuses perpetrated by the callous culprits who take advantage of the desolate condition in the affected areas,” Marcos said.

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