More than six years ago, I was fortunate to be part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build,” the most ambitious infrastructure program of the Philippine government.
We were able to complete 29,264 kilometers of roads, 5,950 bridges, 11,340 flood mitigation structures, 222 evacuation centers, 150,149 classrooms, 214 airport projects, and 451 seaport projects during the Duterte administration.
This is something I had hoped for our country. I am glad I saw this happen in my lifetime, and I am happy to share these stories through Night Owl.
Last March 14 at The Manila Hotel, we launched two new versions of the book — “Night Owl: Second Edition” and the translated “Night Owl: Edisyong Filipino” — with the hope of sharing this narrative to a wider audience.
From the onset, there were many critics and naysayers of “Build, Build, Build” but we shrugged aside their comments; and though we put effort into correcting misinformation and disinformation, our energy was more focused on bigger things, because the real challenges were within the system that we had to change, such as ghost and delayed projects, and bureaucratic inefficiencies, to name a few.
Reforms had to be instituted in the different government agencies to increase transparency and accountability, as mandated by President Duterte. For the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) under then Secretary Mark Villar, reforms instituted include the decentralization of right-of-way authority, the automation of the monitoring system, and the imposition of calibrated sanctions and penalties on contractors with negative slippages, among others.
When these reforms were already in place and the program has gained momentum, we thought the worst was over, and all the other challenges would easily be resolved. Then came the Covid-19 pandemic, which caught us all off guard and disrupted our way of life. We had to adjust our targets and timelines. We had to impose a new normal protocol. We did take a pause, but “Build, Build, Build” had to restart immediately as a recovery approach.
In all of this, I am honored to have been among men and women who exemplify true leadership and public service. I am immensely proud to have worked with 6.5 million Filipinos whose skills, work, and sacrifices turned vision into reality. It is fulfilling to be part of something bigger than yourself.
Night Owl is the story of our nation; a narrative on how, through our collective action, we were able to chart the course for a better nation.
The second edition of Night Owl includes a new chapter on the President Bongbong Marcos’ “Build Better More program,” which builds on the gains of the “Build, Build, Build” and includes a digital infrastructure program. This chapter aims to highlight the importance of continuity, because often times there is no need to reinvent the wheel, especially when a program has been proven effective.
Meanwhile, we did a Filipino edition so that we can share the story of “Build, Build, Build” to more Filipinos, especially those who are more adept at our national language. We want more Filipinos to understand the importance of these infrastructure projects in improving lives and in the development of our nation.
It was an honor to launch Night Owl in the presence of two former presidents, former president Rodrigo Duterte and Deputy House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, along with Senator Mark A. Villar, Senator Bong Go, Senator Francis Tolentino, Senator Cynthia A. Villar, Congresswoman Migs Nograles, Congresswoman Midy Cua, former Transportation Secretary Art Tugade, former Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon; Assistant Secretary Samantha Alfonso, as well as other government officials, ambassadors, members of the diplomatic corps, media, and family and friends who have been very supportive of me from the start.
I am most grateful to Manila Bulletin, led by its President Dr. Emilio Yap III, and to my editors, AA Patawaran and Richard de Leon for helping me accomplish these books.
Through Night Owl, we want the years of the Duterte administration to be remembered as a collective movement of the Filipino people who wanted change and acted on it. We may have set our sights too high, but our country and the men who stood behind it deserve nothing less.