Remember Typhoon Haiyan, a.k.a. Yolanda in 2013? The most powerful supertyphoon to hit the country during the Aquino administration? Much of the blame for the bungled rehabilitation, recovery and reconstruction efforts post-Yolanda was borne by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who was appointed by then President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino as Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery. As it turns out, the creation of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) was only by virtue of a Memorandum Order. It wasn’t even an Executive Order which would’ve given it more effective authority and power. Memorandum Order No. 62 didn’t even mention a funding source for its operation, much more a location where it would hold office, even if it was attached to the Office of the President.
Yolanda resulted in the deaths of 5,902 Filipinos in Eastern Visayas. This is the official count but the unofficial is higher. It affected, 12,139 barangays, 44 provinces, 591 municipalities and 57 cities in the path of death and destruction it left in its wake. The comprehensive action and rehabilitation plan submitted by Sen. Lacson before he resigned his post on February 15, 2015 was never implemented by President Aquino. It wasn’t even in the national budget until 2017 when it was included in the proposed national budget for 2017 by the new administration. Despite the availability of intelligence funds and the President’s social fund, release of which are at the discretion of the President, Aquino never made any, much to the consternation of Sen. Lacson. In fact, most of the funds of the OPARR were provided for by non-governmental organizations led by USAID, UNDP and JICA Even the printing of the final report was funded by USAID. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been submitted.
The comprehensive report submitted by OPARR became the basis for the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction program which was finally implemented under the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Thus, contrary to the widespread belief that it was Lacson who failed at the task, it turns out again that it was Aquino all along. The snail-like pace of the rehabilitation efforts under the watch of then Vice-President Leni Robredo also led to her being dismissed from her post as Housing Czar in November 2016. This was after the President and the Vice-President were the guests of honor at the anniversary of the Yolanda survivors three years after the supertyphoon leveled Tacloban City.
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