Attorney Estrella Taguiam Decena-Zaldivar’s more than three-decade career as a lawyer has been totally devoted to public service. Aside from her personal commitment to pay back to the government, for having enjoyed in her college and law studies, its scholarship program for poor but deserving students; DPWH holds a soft spot for the lady lawyer’s heart. Unknown to many, Attorney Zaldivar’s father worked as a foreman at DPWH until his retirement and her joining the Department is her little way of giving back to the agency that has nurtured through their growing up years.
Before joining the DPWH as Director of the Legal Service in October 2014, Atty. Zaldivar has been stocking-up a stellar career in government service since 1983. She first worked as a Legal Assistant/Hearing Officer at the Human Settlements Regulatory Commission, now Housing and Land Use Regulation Board. Wanting to hone her skills as a litigation lawyer, and to render her legal service to the indigent litigants, she transferred to the Public Attorney’s Office in 1987, in which she served for seventeen years with intrinsic satisfaction.
Shifting to a corporate environment, Atty. Zaldivar took the challenge as a Deputy Administrator in charge of the Administration and Legal Affairs of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System – Regulatory Office, which recognized her performance by renewing her five-term appointment for another full term.
Atty. Zaldivar’s dedication and honest service to the government earned her various recognitions and citations including the prestigious Judicial Excellence Award as an Outstanding Public Attorney, bestowed by the Supreme Court and the Foundation for Judicial Excellence Inc., after a nationwide search in 1998; and several other recognitions as an Outstanding Public Attorney from PAO, National Federation of Public Attorney’s Inc., Court Administration Office of the Supreme Court, and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). She was also a member of the Search Committee for the Supreme Court and the Foundation for Judicial Excellence Inc.’s Judicial Excellence Awardees for the years 2000 and 2003.
To keep abreast on the latest substantive and procedural laws as well as amendments and revisions to the existing ones, Atty. Zaldivar regularly attends the Mandatory Continuing Legal education (MCLE) for lawyers. Mindful of her multi-faceted and Herculean tasks in managing and positively influencing her co-workers under her supervision, not to mention other people she deals with in her workplace, she attended various seminars and training programs including a month-long Accelerated Leadership Seminar in Maui, Hawaii last 2012, conducted by the HAGGAI Institute of Advanced Training – whose vision is to train Christian leaders to enhance their effectiveness using their influence to spread the Gospel. She was also a recipient of various seminars and workshops from the Ateneo Center for Leadership and Change, Civil Service Commission, and Development Academy of the Philippines, among others.
Atty. Zaldivar has other activities and involvements outside her demanding work in the government service, which includes being a Treasurer and Trustee of the Christian Mission Service Philippines, Inc., a non-governmental organization providing alternative home care for destitute children. She and her husband belong to the Pag-ibig sa Diyos Catholic Community.
A government scholar and a consistent honor student, Atty. Decena-Zaldivar is a holder Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology, Cum Laude, from Far Eastern University (FEU). She also completed her Bachelor of Laws with Academic Excellence from the same institution where she was given an Award of Achievement in 2008 and a Special Award for Excellence in Government Service in 1998 by the FEU Law Alumni Association.
Born on February 6, 1957 in Tuguegarao, Cagayan, to underprivileged parents – Ceferino Balubal Decena who was a carpenter and a retired DPWH foreman; and Natividad Ballad Taguiam, a dressmaker and a laundry woman, Atty. Decena-Zaldivar is married to Oscar T. Zaldivar, Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 7, Aparri, Cagayan. They are blessed with five children namely, Oscar Jr., Joseph Don, Joan Kristi, Joan Jhussein, and John Michael.
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