Sen. Lacson initiated the move to have a national ID for each Filipino citizen way back in 1999 when he had not yet stepped into politics.
Lacson had been a perennial author of the bill since his first term at the Senate in 2001. The bill was passed in 2018 as the National ID Law (Republic Act 11055).
Two other landmark laws he authored were the Anti-Red Tape Law and the Anti-Terrorism Act.
His personal credo: What is right must be kept right what is wrong must be set right. (Ang tama, ipaglaban. Ang mali, labanan.)
In a privilege speech in March 2003, Lacson exposed the potential corrupt practices spurred by commissions to projects funded by the pork barrel. That speech preceded by a decade the billion-peso PDAF scam which unraveled in 2013.
When he was Chief PNP, Lacson initiated several programs – from physical fitness to honesty to duty – that gave the PNP the highest public approval ratings in its history.
‘Right now, I am enjoying life and I want to continue enjoying life. I am not thinking of running for public office. Yes, there are many unfinished businesses, but this is not the time to go back. I think I’ve done enough. Life has to evolve; iba naman mag lider.’
‘Peace and quiet are life’s most precious rewards.’ That – plus his own time – are why former Senator Lacson is out of public view.
An afternoon conversation with Panfilo Lacson: The man behind 27 laws cannot just fade away
At a glance
Former Senator Panfilo Lacson (Arnold Quizol)
Former Senator Panfilo Lacson, who for many months we saw and heard every day in various forms of media until after the May 2022 elections, went farming, running, biking, and breathing the fresh air – doing things that did not interest social media. It was a natural way to disappear, and enjoy time. “I now have my own time,” Lacson said.
“I am enjoying life and want to keep enjoying it,” he said when we sat with him for an afternoon conversation, a series on people who were more than celebrities who suddenly left public space.
But a man who had dedicated 52 years of his life to government service cannot fade away. His work, the 27 laws he authored co-authored or sponsored, now has an effect on our lives, one way or the other. One of the most visible would be the national ID which all of us must – or should – have by now. Sen. Lacson initiated the move to have a national ID for each Filipino citizen way back in 1999 when he had not yet stepped into politics.
“I was already advocating this since I was PNP chief, not only to aid law enforcement, that’s the secondary purpose, but to make government service efficient. I realized that there would be more important benefits for the people.” He was the chief PNP from 1999 to 2001. Lacson had been a perennial author of the bill since his first term at the Senate in 2001. The bill was passed in 2018 as the National ID Law (Republic Act 11055).
(Photo by Arnold Quizol)
Lacson sounded amused that we had at least 38 ID cards, among them an office or school ID, library card, bank account card, credit card, driver’s license, SSS or GSIS card, cedula, membership cards for organizations or clubs. “There’s too many to fit a wallet.”
Transacting with government agencies is also where Lacson has left his signature as a public servant. One of the laws he authored which he identified as “closest to his heart” was the Anti-Red Tape Act which cut down the number of processes for a business transaction.
“Ito, pinaglaban ko talag ito (This one I really fought for),” he said.
“When I was chairman of the civil service committee, I sponsored the Anti-Red Tape Act. Maganda ang features nito but sa implementation, na diminish ang effectivity. When I was defending it, it was for 10 days maximum when applying for complex transactions. Meaning, not only one agency is involved. When not acted upon in 10 days, it’s deemed approved. To process simple transactions, it was only five days, and we limited the number of signatories to only five.”
The third law which he worked for is the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act. “I don’t know why that became so controversial. It’s been criticized as abusive of human rights. But we had placed many safeguards so that it will not be abused.”
(Photo by Arnold Quizol)
Many people are not aware of the landmark laws Lacson had authored because his media exposure focused on his active participation in budget hearings. It was there where he discovered – and loudly criticized – the pork barrel system or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) that allocated millions of pesos to each lawmaker for their projects.
In a privilege speech in March 2003, Lacson exposed the potential corrupt practices spurred by commissions to projects funded by the pork barrel which he cited that taxpayers are losing as much as 20 percent to corruption, a figure Lacson said he got from an ADB study.
That speech had preceded by a decade the billion-peso PDAF scam which unraveled in 2013 and caused the filing of several cases of graft and plunder against Janet Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind the massive commissions involving pork barrel funded projects. Napoles is still in jail.
Since he exposed that, Lacson had refused a pork barrel fund for his office. “I made sure that the PDAF allotted to my office would be taken out of the national budget.”
“What moral ascendency do I have to question the pork barrel fund if I also receive that? Even if you don’t get commission as long as you have pork, they will all think you are getting it.”
“Sa unang term ko, I was approached by a lady with a folder holding project proposals. Ang unang tanong sa akin, ano ang palakaran dito, ano ang SOP? (What’s the procedure here?)” The senator told the woman he did not know what she was talking about. “Magkano ang commission mo, senator? (How much is your commission?)” – the woman asked him.
To him, that was not right. It cemented once again what he relates as his personal credo: What is right must be kept right what is wrong must be set right. (Ang tama, ipaglaban. Ang mali, labanan.)
It’s not only his recent past that reflects that. When he was Chief PNP, Lacson initiated several programs – from physical fitness to honesty to duty – that gave the PNP the highest public approval ratings in its history.
His initiatives involved getting rid of what he called ICUs (Inept, Corrupt, Undisciplined cops), cleaned the force of “kotong cops” (cops demanding fees), and even required 34-inch waistlines to encourage a physical fitness routine. The PNP during his stint from 1999-2001 was known for solving high-profile crime particularly kidnap-for-ransom cases and carnapping.
After he entered politics in 2001 when he won a seat at the Senate, Lacson’s time was not his own. And that went for the three terms he served as senator, from 2001 to 2013 and from 2016 to 2022.
He ran for president twice, in 2004 and in 2022.
The presidential campaign for the May 2022 elections was, as Lacson described it, “fun” and “his time was managed by people who ran his campaign.”
“If you are a candidate for president you are like a robot…sunod ka nalang ng sunod; push button ka nalang. Wala ka na halos diskarte sa sarili.”
After the very hectic 90-day campaign, Lacson withdrew from the limelight and devoted his time to attending to several small businesses.
(Photo by Arnold Quizol)
“When I graduated from the Senate on June 30, 2022, I was hired as independent director of a large company. Now, I’m busy with a newly-formed corporation to propagate sorghum, a good substitute for corn to produce feeds because it’s rich in protein, and it’s cheaper.”
“Our partners are farmers who own the lots. If it’s not planting season for rice, or kung idle ang land, walang naman tanim, dyan papasok.”
Today, they’ve planted the seeds on 386.92 hectares, mostly in Mindanao. “Some areas are already being harvested. But like new ventures, there are birth pains. Some are not yet doing very well, but we are still hopeful that we can catch up and make money from this aside from helping the farmers.”
But it is in a two-hectare farm in Cavite where he finds the most joy. “Where it’s more relaxing the air is fresh, the climate is good because it’s near Tagaytay. There’s a vegetable farm with native chickens, goats, a fish pond. My son sells the produce online.”
In the whole conversation, it is the only time the senator smiled and looked relaxed.
So, where are you going from here?
“Right now, I am enjoying life and I want to continue enjoying life. I am not thinking of running for public office. Yes, there are many unfinished businesses, but this is not the time to go back. I think I’ve done enough. Life has to evolve; iba naman mag lider.”
Does he not miss his life as a senator, a person who can do something more for the country.
“I miss more my staff than my work in the senate,” he said counting the many years they worked together for three terms, plus some working with him when he was assigned the head of the Office of the Presidential Assistance for Rehabilitation (OPAR) of the victims of supertyphoon Yolanda.
“Na develop na ang esprit de corps. I miss that.”
But as we ended the conversation, the serious senator said: “Peace and quiet are life’s most precious rewards.”
That – plus his own time – are why former Senator Lacson is out of public view.