Mark Villar and the DPWH post

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PRESIDENT-elect Rodrigo Duterte has spoken about how those who want promotions or appointments should send him a CV, and he will decide on his appointees based on credentials.

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He might need to look at Mark Villar’s.

A question of skill set

The President-elect has said that one need not be an engineer to head the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). What you need to be is a manager.

Other than the fact that this might be said of any Cabinet secretary, this is highly arguable, isn’t it, and especially for the DPWH post.

Because how could an economics major, no matter that he studied elsewhere in the world, know about the whys and wherefores of constructing bridges and roads and highways? How would he know about the systems involved in infrastructure projects, about the crisis of public-private partnership (PPP) projects that has turned the most basic right to safe passable roads into business?

We already think of the DPWH as the bane of our existence. Our roads are destroyed and reconstructed without a clear sense of why. Projects take forever to get done: the busy area of the Mandaluyong City hall is still suffering through a never-ending DPWH road improvement project that didn’t even seem to need improvement. The more epic gridlocks on our roads have happened no thanks to DPWH-approved flyover projects, i.e., remember that time you missed your flight at NAIA 3?

Villar himself has yet to even prove that he has what it takes—even in theory—to be public works and highways secretary. Because even as manager, doesn’t he need to have a sense of the kind of work that his office will be in charge of? The kinds of systems that are in place and the problems with these systems? Isn’t it that in the end what we do need is not just a manager, and not just an engineer, but someone with engineering and managerial experience, who will treat DPWH as primarily a public service and not a way for friends and family to earn out of government projects?

And an even more basic thing: as DPWH secretary Villar will be dealing with engineers. It would be good for the morale of any office that whoever leads it knows exactly the skill set of his subordinates, and understands the struggles they might face not just as government employees but as engineers who work in the service of nation.

A question of track record
Villar’s history as congressman does not reveal even a remote interest in public works and infrastructure as a public service.

This is not to say he’s got no credentials. In the 16th Congress alone, the younger Villar has claimed to author 10 national laws. This includes the Co-Loading Act, which allows foreign vessels to transport and co-load foreign cargoes for domestic transshipment; the Lemon Law, which strengthens consumer protection in the purchase of motor vehicles; and the Negosyo Act, which promotes job generation and inclusive growth through the development of micro, small and medium enterprises. (Interaksyon.com, 17 May)

The Competition Act has been called “game-changing” as it “prohibits anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions, the fixing of prices during auctions or biddings, and agreements that limit or control production, markets and investments.” (Inquirer.net, 21 July 2015) The Youth Entrepreneurship Act has been hailed by Sen. Bam Aquino as a way to “meet the challenges of youth unemployment head on” as it aims “to change the public school curriculum and paradigm, as it creates financial literacy modules in all levels of Philippine education, to inculcate a culture of enterprise development among the Filipino youth.” (bamaquino.com, 6 July 2015) The Microfinance NGO’s Act “is a law that aims to strengthen NGOs that are engaged in microfinance operations for the poor.” (Manila Bulletin, 14 Jan)

One realizes this isn’t just a question of whether or not Villar has the credentials to be Cabinet secretary. It’s that if you look at his work as congressman, he would in fact be better suited not for DPWH, but for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

A deeper, darker hole
Sen. Koko Pimentel has been quick to dismiss the criticism of the Villar appointment: “In the particular case that the proposed government infrastructure project will benefit one of your real properties, then you can, for that particular case, inhibit yourself from the decision-making process.” (Philstar.com, 17 May)

Peter Laviña has said: “We’ll have to check between the companies that are involved in their private business endeavors like building subdivisions, if it’s different from getting a franchise or involving PPP, two different things ‘yan.” Laviña also said that the younger Villar would have to “divest his interests to avoid conflict of interest as secretary of the DPWH.” (ABS-CBN.com, 20 May)

But it will take more than just Villar divesting from the family business, or disallowing the Villar group of companies from engaging in PPP projects, for us to rest easy. This is not just because Mark’s parents were embroiled in that C-5 extension project circa 2008 (see stuartsantiago.com, 15 Oct 2008 for Lito Banayo’s columns on it). It’s also because the mere appointment of a Villar into the DPWH was enough reason for the family to gain from it.

From Jojo Robles: “I got a hot tip on the amazing performance of Vista Land stock on May 17, when it was logging an amazing 7 percent increase by midday in a generally flat market. The news that caused Vista stock to move up was the appointment of Mark Villar as secretary of the DPWH. The market just put two and two together and came up with the result that Vista’s properties would dramatically increase in value as a result of Mark’s appointment to a department that could do just that.” (Manila Standard, May 19)

To appoint Villar to DPWH, when his credentials reveal an interest in another department altogether, and his name is already equated with real estate and development, will not help this department any, suffering as it already does a lack of credibility, with all its good work getting buried in the larger, more controversial holes it digs for itself (pun intended).

Unless of course the change that is coming for the DPWH is just a deeper, darker hole.

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17 Comments

  1. eid mubarak on

    whatever happened to the policy of promoting from within ranks? why do you think employees persevere to stay within one company or government agency but for the chance to grow professionally, gain recognition for work excellence, loyalty and eventually promotions to managerial positions.

    the propensity for putting politicians in highly technical positions will always result in employee demoralization and a lackadaisical attitude towards work.

  2. There are lot of competent people out there, why Mark Villar? Even if he divest his business interest in their family business no one will believed him. Second what did Manny Villar did when he was a senator? He took advantage of his position as senate president use his pork barrel fund to fund his project where his property is located like the C5, Daang hari the Molino rd. Kala ko ba hindi tatanggap si Mayor Duterte ng campaign donor sà mga may business interest sà gobyerno or sà mga oligarchs or sabi nya na kung may backer kang politiko ay malabo kana. Maliwanag galing kay Cayetano ang endorsement at ang campaign donation ay galing kay Manny Villar. Si Grace Poe ang sinuportahan ng mag inang Mark at Cynthia Villar na yan at si Manny Villar ay si Duterte ano yun para safe sila whoever wins?

  3. Its very obvious. The Nationalista Party of Cayetano where the billionaire couple Viilar’s are members and financial supporter’s get their investment. Now all DPWH projects especialy highways and roads are within listening post for the Land developers where to buy lands and develop it. Quite money making in billions.

  4. tony de leon on

    engineer ka nga eh kung katakot takot na red tape at bureaucracy and department mo eh di wala din. what an agency or department head needs is a efficient manager that can lead and make things move.

  5. Putting the young Villar at the helm of DPWH is akin to throwing the whole department to the dogs.

  6. Samuel Corcoro on

    To the Author Katrina Stuart Santiago:

    I guess you have a limited knowledge of the ins and outs of the engineering and construction world. As the head of the agency, Villar is not concerned of the smallest details of the construction i..e. from the type of concrete to be used, bolts to be procured, etc.

    Rather, only his able leadership and management skills is needed. Much of his time is not spent on designing, preparing method statements, etc. That is the job of engineers.

    I myself, is a non-engineer but working on a job exclusively for engineers (Law Graduate working as Contract Manager in EPC).

    • eid mubarak on

      have you not heard of the word “delicadeza” and the concept of “conflict of interest”?

      villar’s appointment is akin to letting the wolf into the henhouse. roads and infra contracts galore for camella’s housing contractors, camella purchase of lands adjacent to future DPWH road and highway projects, etc. etc.

      we expected duterte to be entirely different from previous presidents but early on, looks like more of the same political paybacks, politics of patronage, etc. etc.

  7. Its early to judge Mark Villar whether he will become a competent manager of DPWH or not. But you are right, there are so many experienced managers with engineering /architectural background in the Philippines. Palafox is one

  8. General Antonio Luna is a Physician, Yet he was proven to be one of the best if not the best of all the Filipino Generals that the Americans had fought with.

    • I concur. it’s not what titles you have but the leadership that you bring…As DU30 said Governing is common sense only.

    • eid mubarak on

      times were different during luna’s time. besides there was no PMA yet to train prospective generals for the Filipino revolutionaries.

  9. This is the President you choose, live by it and suffer with the rest of the people.
    I’am not a fan of Pnoy, but his works gave tangible result, even jailing Enrile, Estrada and Revilla. With the people surrounding DU30 now which are all trapos, he is doomed to fail , especially with his ingnorance in managing the country,DU30 is a worker,exectutioner, not a manager. He doesnt have the cut as great manager of the country. He will end up like Estrada- kicked out from Malacanang.

    • you mean as early as now, plan B of Pnoy that BBM most scared about is on the move?

  10. GUALBERTO GUINTO JR. on

    Change Villar no questions ask in order to quell and prevent disillusion and raise false hopes for a better change. He is not qualified for the position if one would correlate it with the standard hiring process of getting the best and the most qualified period.

  11. Sen. Koko Pimentel is wrong. The main issue with the appointment of Mark Villar with the DPWH cannot be cured simply by not taking part (or abstaining from) in the decision making process at the DPWH which might benefit Vista Land. It is the advance information he will have over the infrastructures that will be constructed all over the country which will trigger his Villar Co. to buy up lands in those areas where the roads and infrastructures will be built. Vistaland has been doing this already. They bought the lands abutting the new roads constructed in Antipolo near the Sumulong property. One need not be brilliant to discern immediately a conflict of interest.

  12. Why did Presiden-elect Duterte appoint Mark Villar? Most likely, this is a case of “quid pro quo”. Behind the scenes, the Villars are alleged to have supported and contributed financially to Duterte’s campaign. This appointment is just their reward for their “puhunan”. A case of someone being bought and paid for? Wouldn’t you say that it is rather remarkable that one of the members of a political family that’s in the land development business end up as the head of DPWH? And Duterte wants us to believe that he is going to fight graft and corruption? A potential for corruption is obvious right there. Duterte probably thinks the public is easily bamboozled and would buy this appointment meekly under the guise of his proposed “changes” (a new way of governance, huh?). A big mistake on his part! Once in office, every move that Villar makes at the DPWH will be scrutinized and reviewed for “conflict of interest”. He will find it difficult to exercise his presumed managerial skills. Since he lacks engineering experience and knowledge, even the people who will work under him will be observing and watching his every move. Believe it or not, although he would be the “boss”, the engineers at DPWH would be laughing behind his back for every misstep he makes. Engineers are smart people, and they know “kung walang alam ang kanilang boss”. Unfortunately, it will be the country that will suffer.

    Comelec has to hold another election to find a replacement for Mark Villar. Since his family is in the “billionaire class”, he should pay for the election costs that will be incurred. As`Atty. R. Makalintal said: what Mark Villar has done for giving up his upcoming congressional seat maybe “illegal”.