By Imee Charlee C. Delavin, Reporter

Rehab agency accomplished its goal, Lacson says, explaining his resignation

Posted on December 22, 2014

A SPECIAL Presidential body tasked to rehabilitate areas hit by super-typhoon Yolanda has already “got it’s job done,” prompting its chief to tender an irrevocable resignation.

“I think we got the job done after I juxtaposed our accomplishments with the provision of Memo Order No. 62,” Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo M. Lacson said in a text message yesterday. Memorandum Order No. 62, signed by President Benigno S. C. Aquino III on Dec. 6 last year, created the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) and provided for the functions of the ad hoc agency.

His resignation comes as local authorities in the central Philippines -- which were among the hardest hit by super-typhoon Yolanda -- scramble to address considerable backlogs in shelter and relocation of the thousands displaced.

In his text message, Mr. Lacson also proposed the transfer of its post-disaster rehabilitation duties to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

“OPARR is by all means just a transition body and typhoons and disasters in the Philippines are by no means ad hoc and as such it’s not right for government to respond through task forces and other ad hoc bodies like PARR,” he said in the same message.

Mr. Lacson noted that “there can be no better time to do it than now” citing a “sunset review”of Republic Act (RA) 10121 -- or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Law -- set next year, as provided in the law that mandates the joint congressional oversight committee to oversee and review the accomplishments of the law within five years after its passage. RA 10121 was enacted last May 27, 2010.

Mr. Lacson’s resignation from the Cabinet will take effect on Feb. 10, Atty. Karen Olivia V. Jimeno, OPARR communications director, said in a phone interview on Sunday.

His irrevocable resignation letter was submitted last Friday to the Office of the President together with the proposal for the transfer of post-disaster rehabilitation duties currently being handled by his office to the NDRRMC, she said. The “letter proposed to the President for the transition of OPARR’s functions to the relevant government agencies, which could make OPARR’s functions unnecessary,” Ms. Jimeno added.

Last week, Mr. Lacson already hinted at a looming resignation when he said he sought to transfer his office’s mandate to the NDRRMC. He noted further that the responsibility of the OPARR, “only covers Yolanda-affected areas,” and doesn’t include rehabilitation efforts in the wake of other typhoons such as typhoon Ruby that hit the country early this month.

For its part, Malacañang was unable to confirm Mr. Lacson’s resignation. Earlier, Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said that “[Mr. Lacson’s] proposal [to transfer OPARR to NDRRMC] needs to be vetted and reviewed by the President and the Cabinet.”

Mr. Lacson was appointed by the President a month after super-typhoon Yolanda swept through central Philippines in November last year, leaving a wide trail of destruction.

Mr. Aquino approved last October the P167.9-billion Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Plan to guide government rebuilding efforts of the areas hit by Yolanda.

Malacañang has said the government targets to finish rehabilitation of areas devastated by the typhoon before the current administration bows out of office in 2016.