Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ping: Customs Chief Or Anti-Crime Czar?

MANILA, Philippines --- Senator Panfilo M. Lacson may no longer be appointed secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

With the strong opposition of Liberal Party (LP) members, President Benigno S. Aquino III may likely tap Lacson either as the country's anti-smuggling or anti-crime czar.

Likewise, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who was reported to be interested as Agriculture secretary, may be appointed Presidential Adviser on Agricultural Affairs.

A House of Representatives source said President Aquino is determined to appoint both senators, whose term of office expires by June, 2013, as part of his Cabinet but is still mulling over where he could fully harness their expertise.

Such consideration was made after members of the administration ruling coalition allied with Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas thumbed down Lacson's possible appointment to the top DILG post to replace Secretary Jesse Robredo. Roxas' allies believe Lacson's appointment to DILG could affect the LP president's political plans in next year's midterm polls as well as in the 2016 elections. The DILG has administrative control over local government units, a vital element in an electoral campaign.

"There is no specific and concrete agreement yet, but President Aquino may tap Senator Lacson to clean the Bureau of Customs or as his anti-crime czar since the group of Roxas is against his appointment as secretary of the DILG. In the case of Pangilinan, he may serve as adviser on agricultural matters," the source said who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"There is no formal discussion yet, but definitely the President is determined to appoint them in the government," the source said.

If Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon would relinquish his post to run for the 2013 senatorial elections, Lacson would likely get his post.

"It is too late in the day to replace Robredo who is working in the grassroots level for the government. At any rate, Robredo's departure may affect the Liberal Party's chances in 2013 elections, especially that Sec. Roxas has still political plans," the House source said.

Roxas, who lost to Vice President Jejomar C. Binay during the 2010 elections, is reportedly planning to run anew as congressman of Capiz in next year's elections despite the President's preference for him to stay in the Cabinet.

The former senator's congressional bid is inching toward his plan to vie for the House speakership in the 16th Congress, challenging the leadership of Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte Jr., LP vice chairman and a staunch ally of the President, the House source said.

The source added that another possibility is for Lacson to lead the reorganized Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), which is currently headed by Executive Secretary Paquito "Jojo" Ochoa Jr.

Sitting as members of the PAOCC, which runs after government officials and employees, crime syndicates and their cohorts, are the secretaries of the DILG, Departments of Justice (DoJ), National Defense (DND) and Foreign Affairs (DFA), the National Security Adviser, the Armed Forces chief of staff, the Philippine National Police (PNP) director-general, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) director general, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director, and the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime (NCTC) executive director.

Meanwhile, Pangilinan will likely be appointed agricultural affairs adviser as the President is satisfied with the performance of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala