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Red flag raised for Catanduanes DEs post

By Manuel T. Ugalde

LEGAZPI CITY --- At the rate district engineers are replaced in this island province, Catanduanes has become a red flag assignment.

A lone first-class congressional district, Catanduanes was once a highly sought-after assignment for district engineers due to its substantial infrastructure funding. However, the province has become controversial at the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), where engineers now consider the assignment a red flag.

This situation developed after Catanduanes, with its 11 towns, saw four district engineers in less than two years, an unusual occurrence that DPWH engineers cannot ignore, despite the attractiveness of the position. One of these engineers was sacked barely three months into office after the May 2022 election.

In early May 2024, DPWH Secretary Manuel Bonoan removed the district engineers of the island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate to ease tensions in their assignments. The two engineers were Denis Cagomoc of Catanduanes and Simon Arias of the Masbate 2nd District, who were swapped. Arias reportedly accepted the Catanduanes assignment with the promise of a short stint and a subsequent promotion to assistant regional director in another region. Both Arias and Cagomoc had long sought reassignment from their old posts due to extreme political pressures. Arias’ reassignment to Catanduanes was covered by Special Order 92, Series of 2024, signed by Bonoan.

In 2019, then Albay 1st District Engineer Simon Arias sought reassignment to anywhere in the country and landed in Masbate’s 2nd District. However, two years later, Arias again sought reassignment from Masbate and applied for the assistant regional director post in 2022 following the surprise resignation of Assistant Regional Director Esmeraldo Sarmiento.

A source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to a lack of authority to speak publicly, claimed that district engineers typically serve at least three years in their assignments. However, this is not the case in Catanduanes, where a district engineer, Gil Balmadrid, was relieved barely three months after the May 2022 election. Balmadrid, a veteran district engineer and native of Catanduanes, is currently on floating status at the regional office in Legazpi, awaiting his mandatory retirement. He was succeeded by Ferdinand Joven from the Camarines Sur district, who was relieved eight months later. Joven was succeeded by Cagomoc from Samar, who went on a forced leave of absence for over a month without intending to return to his post, prompting the hasty swapping of Arias and Cagomoc. Reports indicate that three district engineers are currently on floating status at the regional office, awaiting assignments.

Former DPWH Bicol legal officer Oliver Rodulfo, now retired, confirmed heavy political intervention in project implementation in Catanduanes. Rodulfo, a native of Catanduanes, disclosed that even section chiefs at DPWH Virac suffer purging at the behest of a politician.

Rodulfo lamented that the unusual purging at the Catanduanes district engineering office began only after the 2022 election, when former Bato town mayor Eulogio Rodriguez was elected as the province’s congressman.


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