OF TREES AND FOREST
(Part 2 of 2)
I would often ask Mark how he would assess his transition from Congress to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). He was already elected to a third term in Congress when President Duterte appointed him to the Cabinet post in 2016. Our family often found the time to get together, usually on a Sunday, to catch up and chat, no matter how busy things got.
I remember Mark saying that the DPWH portfolio was much more difficult compared to his legislative work as Representative of Las Piñas City. He would tell us that President Digong placed emphasis on building more roads, bridges, flood control and addressing the traffic nightmare in the capital. “It’s tough because the expectations are so high,” Mark would tell us, but I love the challenge because I know that if I do my job, if government succeeds in modernizing our infrastructure, we can provide our nation with a brighter future.”
And Mark, in my opinion, and as his accomplishments would bear out, passed the test with flying colors.
Aside from the roads, bridges, flood control, schools that he built, Mark instituted meaningful reforms within the department in order to address the lingering problems of right of way (ROW) issues that delay infrastructure projects and corruption, which has plagued DPWH for decades.
He decentralized ROW functions by delegating the processing of ROW claims. He issued a Revised Right-of-Way Manual that further streamlined the ROW process of the department. He also introduced the Infrastructure Right-of-Way Management Application (IROWMA) for the automation of ROW documents, and enhanced monitoring of ROW acquisition. He knew that delays have been a burden in implementing infrastructure projects in the past administration so he abolished IROW committees that causes delays in resolving ROW claims and streamlined the ROW payment and processing by removing outdated and unnecessary requirements.
And using the “whole-of-government” approach, he coordinated with office of the Court administrator, the Landbank of the Philippines and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in order to find ways to expedite acquisition and expropriation cases. Right-of-way issues still exist but DPWH is able to better manage these issues now in order to avoid delays in projects.
This is something that critics fail to see when they falsely and maliciously accused Mark of “credit grabbing.” First of all, since he was a child Mark has always been the silent type. He does not brag or talk loud. He lets the result of his work speak for him. Ask anyone who really know him if they have seen Mark take credit for something he has not done. Sometimes he would not even take the credit for things he has done!
In all our discussions about his job at DPWH, not once did Mark take credit for infrastructure projects that the previous administration started. He knew and acknowledged that some of these projects were conceptualized and started by the previous administrations. That is just the nature of government—an administration only has one six-year term and many times projects would not get finished during that term. That is the reason why Mark worked hard with his team to address the number one cause of that delay — right of way issues. The fact of the matter is that some of those projects that were started by previous administration were not finished during their time and were, in fact, completed by the Duterte administration. So in my book, it’s much ado about nothing.
Mark also initiated reforms designed to make the public procurement process more transparent and accountable. Under his watch, the DPWH blacklisted at least 25 contractors since 2018. He issued Department Order No. 127 mandating the strict application of R.A. 9184 otherwise known as the Government Procurement Reform Act in the Conduct of Post-Qualification of Bidders with Delayed On-going Contracts with the DPWH. He also pioneered the Geotagging DPWH civil works projects in order to improve the efficiency in planning, budgeting, project monitoring and contract management processes.
The DPWH lost a visionary leader when Mark resigned from his post. But its loss would be the Senate’s gain.
I read an interview where Mark said that his inspiration was his wife and daughter: “I want to leave a better world for my daughter and the people. Everything I do is for the future.” He added: “When I grow old, my daughter would see the things her father did for the country. Nothing else could give any dad that pleasure.”
That, hits the mark.