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With him at the helm, DHSUD Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario is confident that every Filipino’s right to decent and affordable housing will be realized.




It was a simple Philippine Military Academy (PMA) shirt that ultimately started to inspire Eduardo “Ed” Drueco Del Rosario to try his luck at entering the country’s most prestigious school for Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) aspirants. Del Rosario’s brother-in-law had traveled with his sister to Baguio City and gifted him with it when he was in fifth or sixth grade. That gesture lit a fire in Del Rosario.

“Because of that, joining the military organization became a dream,” the now-retired major general tells LEAGUE. “I was enticed to think that if ever I’d join a military organization and experience the hardships of training, I would rather go straight to the Philippine Military Academy.”

Years passed since that fateful day and del Rosario had all but forgotten about his dream—that was until a seatmate in one of his classes at the Adamson University in Manila (where he was taking up mechanical engineering) came to class with an application form for a PMA cadetship.

The young del Rosario applied and successfully hurdled the school’s physical and medical examinations.

“The Academy calls for one’s determination,” says del Rosario. The member of the PMA Mapitagan Class of 1980 adds, “If you are not determined, it’s not for you. [It’s the] key to cadetship.”


After graduation, Del Rosario served in the military for 37 years. His career began as a member of the Special Forces Regiment in his hometown of Nueva Ecija where he served from 1981 to 1989. In 1990, he was appointed battery commander of the 8th Field Artillery Battery of the 8th Infantry Division in Catbalogan City, Samar.

He held other positions prior to his appointment as Battalion Commander of the 73rd Infantry Battalion of the 10th Infantry Division in Davao City in the early 2000s. In 2004, Del Rosario became commander of Task Force Davao and led the revival of the counter-insurgency program Alsa Lumad that mobilized the members of the indigenous community against the New People’s Army (NPA).

Del Rosario describes this period in Davao City’s history as the “hottest in as far as the presence of the NPA rebels is concerned.” He shares, “During my first two, three months, I felt that we would never be successful in our campaign against [them] if the mass base or Lumads who live in the countryside—about 24 percent of the [city’s] population—would not support the campaign of the armed forces.”

The now-retired major general reveals he understood then that the Lumads’ knowledge of the terrain made them ideal fighters against the rebels. To get the support of the indigenous people, del Rosario sought to empower them and invite them to work with the government.

As Task Force Davao commander, he dialogued with prominent Lumad leaders. He requested them to conduct a workshop on their culture for his detachment and company commanders toward better understanding. A year after del Rosario’s arrival in Davao City, the Lumads severed their blood compact with the NPA. “They had a blood compact with us—my military officers and my soldiers,” he reveals. “I invited every tribe leader so they would be represented in our Supreme Tribal Council for Peace and Development, Inc. (STCPD). In that way, we were able to organize and empower them in the process by bringing services of other government agencies to the Lumads.”

The STCPD was launched with five major Lumad tribes in Davao to unify and strengthen relations, as well as to promote peace and development.

The cooperation between the two parties benefited peace and security in the area, where six out of eight persons in a rebel group in the Visayas are Lumads, according to del Rosario. “We were able to drive away the NPA rebels from Davao City,” he says. “My area of operation extended to Davao del Norte. Because of the peaceful environment in the city from 2002 to 2006 and the Alsa Lumad, they themselves started running after the NPA rebels. We enticed their relatives to go back to the fold of the law. I think about 67 [rebels] surrendered and 46 firearms were given to us during my time.”

“We were able to overcome the negative sentiments of the Lumads [toward] soldiers,” del Rosario adds. “In the end, we became brothers.” The tribal chieftains baptized del Rosario as “Datu Limbotong,” which means “protector of the Lumad’s interest” in 2002.

In 2006, del Rosario briefly served as AFP Joint Special Operations Group commander in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. He moved to Samar to become the commander of the 803rd Infantry Brigade for two years and as assistant division commander in 2009.

In the same year, then-Brigadier General del Rosario returned to Davao City, upon the request of then-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who had a disagreement with del Rosario’s predecessor. In his new role, the official would visit remote barangays with Duterte and assist in matters relating to peace and security.

As commander of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade, he reactivated the recruitment of indigenous people into the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) during his second stint in the locale.

Today, he believes that the Lumads are “stronger than ever because of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), with Secretary [Allen] Capuyan (who is also a Lumad leader himself) heading it. The organization is very strong in four or five regions in Mindanao and [now operates] nationwide.” Del Rosario adds that at least 63 percent or between 15 to 17 million of the total Lumad population in the country are from Mindanao.

In 2011, Brigadier General del Rosario was promoted to the rank of major general by then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd. He would also be recognized by Aquino with the Bakas Parangal ng Kabayanihan for leading the search and retrieval operations for the remains of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo who perished in a plane crash in Masbate in 2012.

The award is given to “individuals or groups who have exerted exemplary and extraordinary acts of selflessness in reaching out to those who are in urgent need of assistance in times of calamities and disasters,” according to the Office of Civil Defense website. Del Rosario served as the commanding general of the 2nd Infantry Division in Tanay, Rizal prior to his mandatory retirement in November 2012.

Continuous public service

Del Rosario joined the civilian government after stepping away from the armed forces. He believes that the public service required in the military is at a “higher level” as they have to “go after the lawless elements and risk even your life in the process.” Del Rosario opines that in the civilian government, what is asked is to focus on public service that will help improve living conditions in the country.

President Duterte initially offered Del Rosario to be an undersecretary for military affairs in Malacañang when he assumed office in 2016. The retired military officer coursed his request to be designated undersecretary for civil and veteran affairs under the Department of National Defense (DND) instead through Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, which the President approved.

A year after, he was asked by the Palace to chair the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC). “It’s very simple,” Del Rosario says of his marching orders from the President. “Just help in the need for housing of the general public, most especially the underserved sector; and ensure that the housing units being constructed by the government will not be substandard.”

He added, “When the President gives his trust and confidence, he gives it fully to you. But you must be answerable, and your output must speak for itself.”

One of the most important positions del Rosario holds is being chairman of Task Force Bangon Marawi, where he oversees the rehabilitation of Marawi City after its five-month siege in 2017. He reports that the rehabilitation will be completed by December 2021, adhering to the master development plan.

“Initially, President Duterte wanted to complete everything by December 2021,” shares Del Rosario, who stays in Marawi City for three days each month. “[But there have been] intervening challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, access to funds, and cultural and social [factors]. Rehabilitating a city that was totally destroyed is very complex. It’s not just a 50-hectare property that you will transform into a housing project. It’s so different because of the internal intricacies, complexities. [You learn] how to deal with people, regulations, personalities, culture, the social aspects of everything you do, intrigues, the presence of militant organizations, and so forth.”

Del Rosario targets having checks and balances to ensure transparency in the rehabilitation efforts, and “to dispel the intrigues and suspicion.” He maintains, “They were saying that billions of dollars, millions of pesos were given for the rehabilitation. [If] they will ask me if we received anything from the United States government, not a single centavo. How do they (the Americans) do it? They give it to the non-government organizations (NGOs) and the NGOs will coordinate with the local government unit.”

To address any doubts, he is keen on driving for “convergence and understanding on the flow of money” for the rehabilitation. “Everything is given directly to the implementing agencies,” he insists. “That’s why I encourage third-party monitoring to ensure that the implementing agencies are doing their jobs, that there is transparency. But for them to accuse me, I think they are barking up the wrong tree.”

According to the chairman, Marawi City is envisioned to become a tourist destination in Mindanao. Efforts are aimed to serve as a catalyst for growth and sustainable development, be a template for good governance and become a place where a peaceful environment prevails.

“The infrastructure [development] we have done will be nothing if there will be no peaceful environment at the end of the day,” he submits. A sports complex, convention center, school of living tradition, a grand market, a museum, and a promenade are among the pillars of the development of the city. Its lake will also be a venue for water sports.

Del Rosario became secretary of the newly formed Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) in 2019. He considers the passing of the bill to create the agency as “a gift from President Duterte to the 81 percent of Filipino families who wish to have a house of their own.”

“As a guiding principle in housing, I am telling my officials and employees that we must always consider shelter as a right of every Filipino family. Home ownership is an option. You may opt to buy a house or you may opt to just rent a house,” he explains. A survey says that the remaining 19 percent are happy to rent living spaces, according to the department secretary.

The DHSUD focuses on socialized housing offers for low-income families who can obtain homes worth Php480,000 (24 square meters), Php530,000 (28 square meters) or Php580,000 (32 square meters). These can be availed of with a three-percent annual interest rate with PAG-IBIG (Home Development Mutual Fund). His office and the National Housing Authority (NHA) also refurbished some units of the AFP-PNP housing program built by the previous administration. It is now being offered to barangay officials and informal settlers in the local government units where they are located.

According to del Rosario, the DHSUD integrates three major components: regulation, finance, and production (along with the NHA). The new department merged the functions of HUDCC and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB). “We are the youngest department in the bureaucracy,” he says. “We are experiencing birth pains. We are now moving forward, and we can say that after one year and six months, we are now ready. We have now crafted the 20-year roadmap of the department.”

The DHSUD is also working with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to provide housing for farmers. It is partnering with LGUs and DAR for land allocation and development. Farmers will pay 30 percent lower fees

for their homes, as the cost will not include the land and development. “We consider housing as a right of every Filipino,” he avers. “The president considers shelter as the embodiment of a family. We are doing our best to capacitate low-income families to pay through the price ceiling and different modalities that we would like to impose so the burden of paying will be more doable.”

Del Rosario says the principle of organizational structure that he learned in his decades of military service is being applied to his positions in civilian government. “It’s very important because when you organize, tasks are clear. There must be discipline in the implementation of your programs. The military organization is so structured that there are levels of responsibility. Here, we are applying that. I would like to inculcate in the minds of the personnel that each level must have a level of responsibility. I have been telling them, if I will be made responsible for everything that we do or fail to do, let’s follow instructions from the top that must be followed hanggang dulo (until the last part of the organization).

“I like to listen, then make my decision. I like to be advised, especially [since] I do not know everything. But once I make my decision, I want everybody to follow. If you don’t want to follow, come to me and explain why. I will be open. Maybe I will be enlightened. But if there is no basis, then I will tell you to stop that,” the housing chair says simply

Secretary del Rosario would like his department to be a paradigm for ease of doing business as this minimizes corruption and enables them to deliver greater service to the public.

How does he measure his office’s reach? The secretary would like the public to be proud of what his office has done.

“Face everybody straight in the eye and in the eyes of God, our country, and our people, and be able to say that we have done our job well to the best of our ability,” he concludes.

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