200 DPWH casual employees in Lagman’s district laid off
By Manly M. Ugalde LEGAZPI CITY --- Close to 200 casual employees in the 1st district engineering office in the province of Albay has been dismissed from the service, or their appointment not renewed for the current fiscal year. The 1st district engineering office which is based in Tabaco City covers the 1st congressional district of Albay where the sitting congressman is opposition leader Rep. Edcel Lagman. District Engineer Simon Arias could not be contacted for comment but a visit to the office revealed the absence of such casual employees that used to pack the office on regular days. According to DPWH Regional Legal Officer Oliver Rodulfo, the lay-off of all job order and emergency hired workers at the 1st district engineering office was expected as the congressional district of Rep. Lagman was stripped of close to P2B budget under the 2018 General Appropriations Act. Lagman, a leading opposition leader belonging to the Liberal Party and fiercest critic of President Rodrigo Duterte in the House of Representatives, was only among the 20 opposition lawmakers who were reportedly stripped of their congressional appropriations, particularly those that concern public works and infrastructures. Though unfazed by the move believed orchestrated by Malacanang, Rep. Lagmaan said that the supposed infrastructure allocations were for the district’s development and not for his personal gain. A source said that Lagman, despite the non-allocation of budget for his district for his oppositionist views, will remain an uncompromising human rights advocate and fierce fiscalizer of the incumbent administration’s abuses. According to Rodulfo, most of those laid off employees had been in the DPWH for more than 20 years despite their unstable employment status. He said that as far as his office knew, only the Albay 1st district engineering office, out of the 15 district engineering offices in the whole Bicol region, got zero funding allocation for 2018. Lagman started with his political career during the Cory administration. He was President Cory’s deputy budget secretary and became a congressman following the 1987 election. His good graces with then president Cory began his dream to make his district “number one” in terms of infrastructure development and delivery of public works projects. Under his watch, his district, as can very well be noted by travelers and visitors boasts of road network fully completed, old bridges rehabilitated and new ones erected, modern ports, farm-to-market roads, flood control system, and school buildings built in almost every barangay. A retired high ranking DPWH regional official said that Lagman had reigned among the lawmakers in the region in terms of total pork barrel allocations that stretch from the administrations of the former presidents Cory, to Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III. As congressman for over two successions of complete terms, he had chaired the powerful House committees of Appropriation and Justice. As chair of the justice committee, the impeachment case filed against then President Arroyo did not materialize after it was declared by the Lagman committee to be complete in form but not in substance. He once ran for a Senate post but lost.