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OVER ABSENTEEISM: DPWH director issues strong warning to DEs

By Manuel T. Ugalde

LEGAZPI CITY --- The Regional Director of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Virgilio Eduarte, has issued a stern warning to district engineers and employees in the Bicol region due to reported violations of civil service laws related to attendance at the office.

Both labor and civil service laws require government workers, regardless of their status, to adhere to a five-day workweek from Monday to Friday, with fixed 8-hour daily working hours from 8 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.

Reports from media practitioners in the region suggest that DPWH district engineers are often absent from the office during the designated workdays, and there are delays in reporting for official business or travel, which are used as excuses.

May Andes, the secretary of the DPWH regional director’s office, countered these claims by stating that Director Eduarte regularly reports to the office as early as 7:30 a.m. on weekdays, Monday to Friday, unless he is on official business or travel. She mentioned that the director, as a presidential appointee, is not required to maintain a daily time record. Andes emphasized that the director’s absences or delays are strictly related to official business and that he often has his lunch alone in the office despite its proximity to his official quarters. She also mentioned the strict enforcement of the biometric system for employee attendance, which records employees’ entry and exit with thumbprints.

It has come to light that the frequent absences of district engineers from their offices are sometimes unjustifiably covered up with the collaboration of their staff. For instance, one district engineer was absent for two days, claiming official business, when he was actually attending a festival in a distant province. Bicol has 16 district engineering offices, with 3 in Masbate and one in Catanduanes. These offices are expected to maintain regular working hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.

A previous incident involving the failure of a division chief to comply with daily time record reporting resulted in a conflict between then Regional Director Danilo Tagudando and Regional Legal Officer Oliver Rodulfo in 2016. The case against Rodulfo arose when he accused Tagudando of violating the election ban related to the appointment of an engineer. Rodulfo was eventually suspended by the Ombudsman for 60 days.

The biometric system, designed to deter attendance fraud, can be manipulated by unscrupulous office heads who use fake travel orders, according to a retired DPWH official who conducted research on the matter. This fraudulent practice has cost taxpayers millions of pesos in Bicol alone.

A source from the regional office, speaking anonymously, confirmed the media’s allegations about the frequent absenteeism of district engineers and staff and the manipulation of their attendance records. The source called for an investigation by the Civil Service or the Ombudsman, based on available records.

The source questioned how officials could justify arriving at the office daily with an hour or more delay without using the biometric system. Such habits, according to the source, cannot be justified by travel order claims. This situation only serves to reinforce the perception of the DPWH as one of the most corrupt agencies in the region.

The source also recalled the case of a former regional director who, despite residing in Davao, would only report to the office on Tuesdays or Wednesdays and leave early on Fridays to return to Davao via Manila. This director’s actions, which included skipping Monday’s flag-raising ceremony, were seemingly ignored by the office of then-Secretary Mark Villar, a Duterte appointee.

Eduarte stated that he plans to address the absenteeism issue by meeting with his regional staff and district engineers. He cited President Duterte’s emphasis on government employees, regardless of their status, adhering to an 8-hour workday from Monday to Friday. President Duterte had also mandated the mandatory holding of the flag-raising ceremony on the first day (Monday) of the workweek, with all employees and the head of the office in attendance. Eduarte urged DPWH workers to report any fraudulent activities in the office, including attendance violations, emphasizing that no one is exempt from the biometric attendance system.


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