New DILG chief: Who is Senen Sarmiento?
Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star) - September 9, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Who is Western Samar Rep. and incoming interior and local government secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento?

The secretary general of the ruling Liberal Party has been appointed by President Aquino to replace party standard-bearer Manuel Roxas II as new head of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

On a Facebook post, Sarmiento’s nephew Drew described his uncle as a shy person who has always tried to avoid the limelight.

The younger Sarmiento said since the President’s announcement, he has been receiving various requests for the curriculum vitae of his uncle.

“I’m not surprised that people may have been clueless who he is, knowing how Rep. Mel has evaded the limelight while being a public official. And I will not be surprised if he chooses to work unnoticed if he accepts the challenge,” he said.

He said Sarmiento never intended to enter politics.

Sarmiento was an active member of the Rotary Club in Samar in the early ’90s and was involved in many outreach programs that he spearheaded.

At a young age, he was groomed to be the club’s governor and was later convinced to enter politics. He won as Calbayog City’s vice mayor – the youngest at 30.

In 1995, he returned to being a private citizen.

People of Calbayog would later clamor for his return to city hall – this time as its local chief executive. He heeded the call and easily won as mayor in 2001. He served three terms until 2010.

Sarmiento was a recipient of several awards, including Galing Pook, Konrad Adenauer, Competitive City Award.

Under Sarmiento, Calbayog competed with Naga City for the distinction as best LGU, a competition which made him a close friend to then mayor Jesse Robredo. They were both active in the League of Cities of the Philippines. Robredo died in a plane crash in 2012.

Robredo became DILG secretary while Sarmiento won as congressman of the 1st district of Samar in 2010. While serving in separate branches of government, they still pursued their advocacy on local governance, like ensuring the systemic review and updating of the Local Government Code.

Neutral

Staying neutral while ensuring peaceful, honest and orderly elections in 2016 is what Sarmiento also hopes to accomplish as he formally assumes his new post tomorrow.

Turnover ceremonies are set for tomorrow at the DILG main office in Quezon City.

Sarmiento vowed not to allow the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other agencies under the DILG to be engaged in partisan politics.

“We will continue to uphold the high standards of the institution in public service and guarantee that the national police and the entire uniformed service under the DILG will be neutral in ensuring a peaceful, honest and orderly election in 2016,” he said in a statement. “We will remain steadfast in our fight against corruption.”

Sarmiento said he would continue to modernize the PNP, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and other agencies under the DILG.

He thanked President Aquino for giving him the opportunity to continue the reforms being implemented in the DILG.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. congratulated Sarmiento, saying the former Samar lawmaker was very qualified for the post.

Binay’s warning

Meanwhile, the camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay expressed hopes the incoming DILG chief would not use the agency for partisan politics with the 2016 elections just eight months away.

“We are hoping against hope that the incoming DILG secretary would focus on key issues facing the DILG. But we know that Rep. Sarmiento is not only a loyal party man but a key official of the party,” Joey Salgado, Binay’s spokesman for media affairs, said in a statement.

Salgado also slammed the DILG for failing to address the problem of criminality as the department was reportedly focused on programs outside its mandate.

Earlier, Rico Quicho, Binay’s spokesman for political affairs, questioned the DILG’s P7.3-billion budget for programs that were not within the mandate or competence of the agency.

Binay’s camp also expressed concern that part of the budget would be used to bankroll the presidential campaign of Roxas. – With Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy

ACIRC BINAY BUREAU OF FIRE PROTECTION BUREAU OF JAIL MANAGEMENT AND PENOLOGY CALBAYOG CITY COMPETITIVE CITY AWARD DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT DILG PRESIDENT AQUINO SAMAR SARMIENTO
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