Mark Villar, 43, is a former Department of Public Works and Highways secretary known for his work as isolation czar amid the pandemic and for facilitating the Duterte administration’s flagship Build, Build, Build campaign.
The ambitious BBB Program, intended to boost infrastructure in the countryside and spur economic growth, has received increased funding over the last five years and continues to be hailed by administration allies. However, a number of projects stamped as part of the effort have been flagged by critics as started and substantially completed prior to being included in the project's umbrella.
Villar was elected representative of the lone district of Las Piñas for three consecutive terms, the last of which was cut short when he was appointed DPWH secretary in 2016. His wife, Emmeline Aglipay-Villar was also serving as Diwa party-list representative in the lower house when she was appointed undersecretary of the Department of Justice in August 2018.
His sister, Camille Villar, won the Las Piñas district seat in 2019 and is seeking reelection in 2022. The same seat was previously occupied by his parents, former Senator Manny Villar and Senator Cynthia Villar. If Villar wins in the 2022 elections, he will join his mother Cynthia and sister Camille in Congress.
Villar’s parents also own Vista Land and Lifescapes, Inc. among other business ventures. In April 2022, Manny Villar was recognized by Forbes Magazine as the richest individual in the Philippines, with an estimated net worth of USD 8.3 billion. Before he entered government, the younger Villar also held posts at his family’s businesses. Questions continue to be raised about conflicts of interest posed by the Villars’ public service careers and their business empire.
He is campaigning on a platform of bringing BBB to the Senate, though he has not yet detailed what kind of legislation he would push to fulfill that pledge.
Villar is included in the senatorial slate of the UniTeam alliance of the late dictator's son Ferdinand Bongbong Marcos and the incumbent president's daughter Sara Duterte. His candidacy has been endorsed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
In January 2022, two frequencies that were previously operated by ABS-CBN – the network shuttered by President Duterte's allies in the House of Representatives – were granted to Manny Villar’s Advanced Media Broadcasting System.
The candidate's top priorities if elected to office, tracked against previous promises and accomplishments, if any
- Continuation, promotion, and legislative expansion of Build, Build, Build projects under next administration to improve connectivity, facilitate economic growth
- Prioritize job generation
- Construction and rehabilitation of major highways, farm-to-market roads, bridges, diversion roads under the Build, Build, Build campaign; 14 major projects are identified as completed in the Build, Build, Build official website
- DPWH reported that about 6.6 million jobs were created from 2016 to 2020 under the Build, Build, Build campaign
The candidate's top five accomplishments and contributions for the last 15 years or so
Throughout two full terms and a few months into his third term as a lawmaker in the lower chamber, Villar filed at least 184 principally authored bills, at least 12 of which were passed into law.
Among these laws are R.A. No. 10909 which prohibits business establishments from shortchanging customers even if the change due is only a small amount and R.A. No. 10644 or the Go Negosyo Act which supports micro, small and medium enterprises.
Villar’s appointment as DPWH secretary was met with objections that pointed to potential conflicts of interest in violation of R.A. No. 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, due to his family’s extensive business holdings like Vista Land and Camella Homes. His allies waved away such concerns since his DPWH work deals with infrastructure projects and not the grant of business permits for housing and construction projects. Additional safeguards also had to be complied with such as divestment of business interests and appropriate disclosures in SALNs. Villar also owed that his family would not participate in the bidding of DPWH-implemented public-private partnership projects.
However, in December 2019, the Villar clan’s wide-ranging influence in business and commerce resurfaced. DOJ undersecretary Aglipay-Villar inhibited herself from the justice department’s review of the water concessionaire contracts between the government and Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, given her close ties to the Villar family or the owners of Prime Water Infrastructure Corp.
As secretary of DPWH, Villar oversaw the bulk of the Duterte administration’s infrastructure projects under its flagship Build, Build, Build program across the country, with such projects getting massive funding infusions even during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through its five-year implementation, the program has constructed over 30,000 kilometers of road, over 150,000 classrooms, over 5,000 bridges, over 11,000 flood control structures, and other major infrastructure projects as of mid-2021. The DPWH also claims it generated an estimated 6.6 million jobs for Filipinos from 2016 to 2020, with another 1.6 million jobs to be generated from the department's 2021 budget.
In 2017, the National Economic and Development Authority identified 75 priority projects to be undertaken under the ambitious projections of the Build, Build, Build program but several revisions were made such as the removal of about half of the original list, the addition of 71 other – some of which were already ongoing – projects and other adjustments in 2021.
Only 14 major projects out of the expanded target of 119 projects have been completed as of February 2022, according to the BBB official website. Another 10 projects were targeted for completion by year-end.
In 2020, the DPWH received a P581.7 billion budget; it was increased to P667.3 billion out of the P4.506 trillion budget for 2021. This increase came despite the P135.8 billion worth of “reappropriations” and “lump sum appropriations” involving 5,913 DPWH infrastructure projects questioned during the 2020 budget deliberations. Senator Panfilo Lacson, in particular, questioned the realignment of funds to the COVID-19 response and said appropriating such sums may be unconstitutional because lump sums are expressly prohibited and the P135 billion (initially pegged at P73.5 billion) in items rehashed from the 2020 national budget should have been discontinued completely if they are to qualify for fresh funding. Instead, the 2021 NEP proposes only fractions of their original allocations. Villar insisted that the DPWH complied with line-item budgeting and that no lump sum allocations were made.
Also in the last quarter of 2020, President Duterte during his public addresses railed against the DPWH for supposed rampant corruption. Although the president cleared Villar of wrongdoing, the latter ordered the creation of an anti-corruption task force composed of five officials to probe fellow officers and employees within the department. Some doubted the effectiveness of an internal investigative body rather than an independent probe. The Task-Force Against Corruption later took over the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission’s investigation into cases of alleged corruption involving certain lawmakers and at least 14 DPWH district engineers.
Executive Branch Accomplishments
However, a number of projects were conceptualized and began during the Aquino administration. Villar drew the ire of critics via social media after supposedly attempting to grab credit for some projects
DPWH secretary, August 2016-October 2021
Several candidates have vowed to continue the initiatives under the Build, Build, Build campaign
Completion of over 230 airport projects since 2016, including Bicol International Airport, General Santos International Airport, and Zamboanga International Airport
Marked as completed as of December 2021:
- Runway Manila (modern pedestrian link bridge that connects the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3and the Newport City
- R-10 road (from Delpan Bridge, Tondo, Manila to the mouth of the Malabon River at Bangkulasi Bridge; started six administrations ago)
- Mandaluyong Main Drainage (Maysilo) Project
- NAIA Expressway Project Phase
- Bonifacio Global City
- Newport City
- Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (project started in 2005)
- Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone
- Passenger Terminal Building at the Port of Cagayan de Oro
- Mactan-Cebu International Airport Terminal 2
- Bohol-Panglao International Airport
- Cavite Gateway Terminal
- Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange
- Communications, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management
Claims to have generated about 6.6 million jobs from 2016 to 2020
Among the principal authors, 2019
Approved by the president on Feb. 20, 2019
Principal author, 2015
Approved by the president on May 23, 2016
Among the principal authors, 2013
Approved by the president on July 15, 2014
Principal author of bill substituted by final house bill, 2013
Lapsed into law on July 21, 2016
Among the principal authors, 2015
Approved by the president on Mar. 3, 2016
Claims to have generated about 6.6 million jobs from 2016 to 2020