President Benigno Aquino has appointed Western Samar Representative Mel Senen Sarmiento as the new secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Sarmiento replaced Mar Roxas, who resigned last July after being announced by the ruling Liberal Party as its standard bearer.
In his farewell speech last September 11, Roxas expressed his appreciation for Sarmiento, who was responsible for transforming Calbayog City, where the Western Samar representative earlier served as mayor for three terms, into one of the most progressive cities in the country.
“He was the secretary general of the League of Cities. He was a three-term city mayor, transforming Calbayog into a very progressive city in Western Samar,” Roxas said about his successor.
“His integrity, nearly 20 years of public service, ni minsan, hindi nadapuan ng kahit anong mantsa, kahit anong anomalya ang kanyang pangalan. So may integrity, may competence, and of course, may experience,” Roxas continued.
House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, meanwhile, described Sarmiento as a quiet leader who is not hungry for publicity, a trait which he shares with Roxas. Both Belmonte and Sarmiento emphasized teamwork and unity, especially in working with local government officials, noting that nation building and inclusive goals cannot be achieved if not united.
“However good we are, without teamwork na nag-iisa tayo, ‘di natin nagagamit ang lakas ng lahat,” said Belmonte.
For his part, Sarmiento praised the reforms that Roxas initiated during his term, particularly the anti-poverty initiatives such as Bottom Up Budgeting (BUB).
“Talagang napakasuwerte ng mga local government unit. Parang ibinalik ni Secretary Mar ang original na pangalan ng departamentong ito, which used to be Local Government and Community Development. Through the BUB, naibalik ‘yung ‘community development,’” he said about his predecessor.
Sarmiento also expressed his gratitude to Aquino, who handpicked him for the post.
“I thank President Aquino for giving me this opportunity to continue the reforms being implemented now… many of which were among those that we usually talked about with the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo when we were still city mayors,” Sarmiento said, referring to the beloved Naga City leader who passed away in 2012.
Sarmiento plans to focus on the existing projects of DILG to make sure that the reforms set by Roxas can be sustained. He also promised that his new position will not affect the integrity of the upcoming 2016 elections.