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Why I will vote for Mark Villar

He is known as the silent worker because his achievements are noteworthy, yet he is not one to boast. Secretary Mark A. Villar is that public servant whose passion and commitment to duty is best expressed through accomplishments, not words.

He was elected for a third term as representative of the lone district of Las Pinas in 2016 and was ready to continue carrying out his work as legislator. His accomplishments in Congress include authoring bills on education, health and livelihood, including the Negosyo Act promoting micro finance, and the Lemon Law protecting buyers of motor vehicles. He was also one of the proponents of the Co-Loading Act, which opened domestic transport and shipping to foreign vessels.

But even before he could file proposed measures for his third legislative term, he was called to serve in President Rodrigo Duterte’s cabinet as head of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). He accepted the duty and showed nothing short of what was expected from him. He demonstrated how much one can accomplish with hard work and industry.

Remarkable feats in DPWH

Under Secretary Mark’s leadership, the DPWH has finished 29,264 kilometers of roads, 5,950 bridges, 11,340 flood control projects, 150,149 classrooms, and 222 evacuation centers in a span of five years. He has accomplished much, yet he remains humble, giving back the credit to those who worked with him — a true mark of a silent but very effective worker.

What makes Secretary Mark’s feats remarkable is that the work of the DPWH is never easy. Building a road is more than just the construction itself. Aside from the master plans and blueprints, we need to secure possession of the land, resolve right of way (ROW) issues, go through expropriation proceedings, among many others, and we have to go through the bureaucratic process.

He addressed the challenges that came with these processes by decentralizing the ROW acquisition functions, enhancing monitoring of ROW acquisition, streamlining processes on infrastructure projects, and the use of geo-tagging for real-time monitoring of the progress of projects.

To achieve what Secretary Mark has accomplished in five years and even amid the pandemic is impressive, to say the least.

Despite these facts, some continue to criticize and discredit him, but more have realized and appreciated the work that he has done. The different pre-election surveys, wherein Secretary Mark is always on the top tier of preferred senatoriables, prove that his work speaks for itself.

President Duterte is very generous in praising him, stressing how much of a worker Secretary Mark is. The President was almost unwilling to let him go to run for the Senate. That’s how efficient he is.

Through Secretary Mark’s leadership and hard work, Filipinos now have more time to spend with their families than on the road because of the EDSA Decongestion Program; farmers are able to deliver their produce to markets at a shorter time through the roads and bridges built in different regions; more communities will be safe in times of natural calamities because of projects like the Leyte Tide Embankment Project; more Filipinos will have better access to basic services and opportunities because of better roads, improved bridges, and increased inter-island connectivity.

Legislative agenda

Secretary Mark believes that the continuous development of the country’s infrastructure network will result in the sustained growth of our cities, the countryside, and the country as whole. Which is why if he gets elected to the Senate, he will institutionalize the “Build, Build, Build” program of the government through legislation. This will ensure continuity of infrastructure projects and stimulate the economy which will lead to job generation.

As a public servant who worked tirelessly during the pandemic, Secretary Mark also realized the hardships of frontliners. In line with this, he wants to support benefits to all frontliners during time of pandemic including medical or health practitioners, construction workers, public utility operators and employees, to have hazard pay, additional leave benefits, medical allowance and insurance, among others.

He also wants to create, through legislation, a “super core council” consisting of relevant agencies of the executive department with representatives from other branches of government to build the foundational capacity of the government to respond to a public health emergency or disaster and come up with a whole of government approach for a comprehensive pandemic health action plan and response.

Secretary Mark has several other priorities, such as: to institutionalize and promote infrastructure support for farmers to increase the agriculture industry’s capacity for better production; strengthen the IT infrastructure to make online education available to all students, and ensure the provision of complete and up-to-date facilities that would allow learning to be more conducive to all students; support MSMEs by providing them access to flexible loans and financial support so they can rise up from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic; enact legislation against all forms of discrimination, further the protection of women and children against abuse and exploitation, and improve benefits for senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

He also has legislative plans that would benefit overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). He wants to ensure local job generation and support the provision of livelihood programs and reintegration services for returning OFWs to make overseas employment an option rather than a necessity.

Furthermore, he wants to increase the budget for services catering to distressed workers, including free and comprehensive health services and legal assistance to OFWs; expand digital and financial literacy programs for OFWs and their families; conduct extensive information drive to ensure that OFWs are fully aware of and engaged with the existing programs, services, and projects of the government; and improve the protection of our OFWs against abuses by cracking down on illegal recruitment and human trafficking and ensuring the accountability of perpetrators.

Secretary Mark has proven himself capable as head of DPWH. If he is elected to the Senate, there is no doubt that he is capable of carrying out his legislative agenda. His track record clearly speaks for itself.

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