By Manly M. Ugalde
LEGAZPI CITY --- Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar did it again – eluding local newsmen for the third time after making a ‘lightning’ visit at the DPWH regional office and left hurriedly without a trace.
The young Villar reportedly arrived in Legazpi on Holy Wednesday last month, according to Salvador Flor, president of the Bicol Reporters Association.
The secretary stayed for three hours, more or less, and left after lunch after making brief inspection of certain sections of Mt. Mayon of its possible lahar routes in case of heavy rains, according to a source who spoke on condition that his name be withheld for lack of authority to talk.
Unlike past DPWH secretaries, Villar’s visits have been kept away from the local media’s knowledge and if they learned about it, they never had chance to interview him.
Flor recalled that former DPWH Secretaries Gregorio Vigilar and Rogelio Singson never brush off conducting interviews with members of the local media whenever they came to visit Albay or anywhere in Bicol,
Villar first visited Legazpi on January 12, 2017 when he conducted a half-day staff meeting with his 15 Bicol district engineers at the regional office here.
About a dozen of journalists who tailed Villar said they waited the whole afternoon at the DPWH regional office in the hope of interviewing Villar but only to be informed by security officers that the secretary had already exited via the back door 5:00 pm.
The following day, media practitioners were surprised to learn that the secretary discreetly met with selected few journalists during a dinner in a Legazpi hotel where he checked-in. The selected few journalists were reportedly hauled by the local DPWH executives to the hotel using vehicles of a bigtime local contractor.
According to Flor, Villar was accidentally met after breakfast at the Legazpi airport on January 13 by Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption founding chair Dante Jimenez who allegedly told the secretary that the DPWH regional office is the most corrupt in Bicol.
On February 23, Villar sacked then Bicol Regional Director Reynaldo Tagudando, Asst. Regional Director Armando Estrella, and Regional Legal Officer Oliver Rodulfo. Esrella and Rodulfo reportedly witnessed the dialogue between Villar and Jimenez at the airport’s departure area.
On Sept. 17, Villar held a staff meeting with his regional directors at Mayon Oriental Hotel. The media, however, learned about Villar staff meeting only after reports came out that Villar’s wife was allegedly served during breakfast with cockroach on her milk. The incident was reported to the City Health Office for investigation.
The local media would like to ask the elusive secretary, if they would have chance to meet him, about at least four controversial issues hounding the regional office, among other matters:
1) the nagging controversy at the construction division being occupied by an allegedly well-connected engineer for more than a year now despite his being fourth only in ranking from among the four applicants based on the final evaluation report of the Central Selection Board dated Sept. 10, 2017, while the No. 1 in the ranking remains in waiting as assistant district engineer;
2) a district engineer in Albay district allegedly videoed thrice inside a cockpit in Legazpi and Daraga town last year while accompanied by two staff engineers;
3) alleged ‘invasion’ by Davao group of the Masbate district engineering office; and,
4) the designation of an acting district engineer of Catanduanes District Engineering who was among the major figures the police have charged in the biggest shabu lab uncovered in Virac town in October last year.