Mark his words
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - February 13, 2019 - 12:00am

While he has a mother and a sister running for the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively, it was business as usual in the office of Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar. This even as the official campaign period for candidates running in the coming May 13 mid-term elections officially kicked off yesterday.

As far as he is concerned, the DPWH Secretary considers himself retired from politics since he joined the Executive branch almost three years ago. Turning 41 years old in August this year, Villar is one of the youngest Cabinet members in the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

When Villar joined the Duterte Cabinet on Aug. 1, 2016, his wife, Diwa party-list Representative Emmeline Aglipay Villar was designated as “caretaker” for the Las Piñas City congressional district. In July last year, President Duterte appointed Emmiline as Justice Undersecretary.

Camille, Mark’s younger sister, is now running for the lone congressional seat of the Villar bailiwick virtually unopposed.

Joining the DPWH Secretary in his self-imposed retirement from politics is no less than his father, top business leader Manny Villar. The Villar patriarch went into his self-imposed “retirement” from politics after he run but lost in the May 2010 presidential elections. He was then Senate president. He has since then turned around their family business conglomerate Vista Land into one of the country’s biggest corporations.

The elder Villar also previously once served as House Speaker when then Davao City Mayor Duterte run and won as a member of the House of Representatives. Although “retired” from politics, the elder Villar is still regarded as chieftain of the Nacionalista Party (NP).

Sec. Villar himself was first elected to public office in May 2010 as congressman of the lone district of Las Piñas City. Villar ran for a third term during the 2016 elections and won. The young Villar took over from his mother, Cynthia Villar who was then ending her three consecutive terms in Congress. The grand matriarch of the Villar dynasty first run and won at the Senate during the May 2013 mid-term elections. She is now running for re-election. 

The DPWH Secretary told us he would not have any problem complying with the verbal directive of President Duterte for all the Cabinet officials to stay away from political campaign. Of course, the DPWH Secretary exuded confidence on the track record of the Villar political dynasty to carry them to victory for serving very well not only their constituents but more so the entire Filipino people through these years.          

During a roundtable interview with him at The STAR editorial office last Monday night, Villar repeatedly shot down speculations on his supposed moist eyes looking ahead of the next presidential elections in May 2022. “President of our Homeowners Association would be more likely,” Villar kept insisting to us.

Villar swears the only plans he has is to serve to the best of his abilities as DPWH Secretary, especially to deliver the campaign promises of President Duterte in bringing about the “golden age” of infrastructure program in the Philippines. To accomplish them, the DPWH has lined up roughly more than 20,000 infrastructure projects all over the country.

These include the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program of the Duterte administration. A team of Cabinet officials that included the DPWH Secretary are among the government agencies undertaking these projects, a number of which are funded either from the annual budget of the government or from the official development assistance (ODA) and loans from China, Japan, the United States, etc.

Ranging from the smallest to the biggest projects, Villar noted many of them date back to previous administrations where they remained stuck in the bureaucratic pipelines.

“Regardless who started these projects, I don’t believe in taking credits. We will finish it. These are all yours, taxpayers,” Villar pointed out.

Just last Monday, Malacañang released to the public Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 57 signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea by authority of President Duterte last Feb. 7. “Unfinished government infrastructure projects cause great inconvenience and serious damage to the prejudice of the general public and adversely affect the delivery of basic services,” MC 57 stated.

Villar conceded many of the causes dragged the implementation of these projects. Most of them were due to right-of-way and other legal restraints, the perennial bureaucratic red tape, if not graft and corruption. But since he took over the helm of the DPWH, Villar noted with satisfaction his agency has completed a number of projects using a combination of technology-aided mechanisms to address these bottlenecks.

The DPWH Secretary was particularly proud of the immediate impact of their satellite-based geo-tagging to monitor all projects being undertaken by the agency. He explained it was only when he assumed office at DPWH that this World Bank funded geo-tagging is now being used to check against “slippages” of contractors in their respective projects.

“In terms of our battle against corruption, just one click can capture instantaneously the status of each project at every stage of the construction,” Villar said.

“There can be no faking of this geo-tagging system,” the DPWH Secretary cited.

Following the delay in the approval of the 2019 budget over the alleged “insertions” row with the 17th Congress, Villar remains optimistic the “Build, Build, Build” projects will be able to catch up with the remaining three-year timeline of the Duterte administration before it bows out of office.

Villar recalled having been able to hurdle the six-month timeline given to the DPWH to complete its part in the Boracay rehabilitation. Again, Villar counts upon ”teamwork” of the Duterte administration to deliver again its promise to rehabilitate next the Manila Bay.

“For doubters, rest assured, we will finish our flagship projects,” Villar promised. Mark his words, the DPWH Secretary vows.

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