He was the shy emcee in Synergeia’s National Education Summit last year. He was a bit uncomfortable posing for pictures. Little did he and we know, that he would be Mayor of the bustling metropolis of Pasig City. Toppling a family dynasty that ruled Pasig for 27 years was a mission impossible.
For the participants to the 2019 Washington SyCip National Education Summit, Mayor Vico was a superstar. But everybody expected the Rock Star to come with depth and substance. And to our great joy, he imbued us with hope and inspiration.
Humility is his first trait. He said he did not deserve to be a speaker. His role was to listen and to learn from their best practices.
Feeling at home, he told them a story why old residents were reluctant to vote for him. They were afraid that their children would lose their scholarship and other privileges if a new mayor were elected. Other voters had similar stories.
To them, all the services which they enjoyed came courtesy of the mayor. From then on, he committed to wean the voters away from patronage. They must realize that it is their right to be served by government. They deserve to be informed that the services that the local government provides —health, education, protection, financial assistance–do not come from political leaders. They are financed by public funds with money that is paid by taxpayers. Mayor Vico has embarked on a task of of changing the culture and practice of patronage. Residents should not be beholden to the mayor. He is first and foremost a public servant.
Changing a culture is a gargantuan task. Mayor Vico has to reform processes and the way that people think. An easy way of course is to continue the past practice where the seat of power is the mayor. He decides and approves every thing. That is the surest way to become popular and powerful. Let the people come to him -request, cajole, and even beg. That way they will continue to perceive that the mayor makes all things possible and all the projects and programs are given by him.
Mayor Vico has decided to pursue a different route. His way is through people empowerment. He has begun by anchoring his programs on massive consultations, especially the poor, and the youth. What do they need? What are their dreams? What are the priorities which they would like their city government to pursue?
He validates people’s perceptions with data. He has embarked on baseline assessments and knows the statistics at heart. How many grade one children make it to high school? How do the children perform in national achievement tests? What is the infant mortality rate? How many children are stunted?
There are no short cuts for Mayor Vico. His eyes are set not on projects that will make him win votes. He is looking at several parts of a whole and their interconnection. His mantra is for all programs in housing, health, and education to be “systemic and wholistic”. The need is not just for school buildings. He will pursue capacity building not only of teachers, but of parents, and people’s organizations. There will be programs on heath, nutrition, values- development, and subsidies to the poor. All the factors that will help children finish a good education will be addressed. And not because the mayor wills it, but it is the children’s right.
So expect no histrionic announcements from Mayor Vico. There will be no grandstanding, He is laying the foundation for a strong, efficient, and honest governance. Brick by brick– this is how institutions are built. Processes must not be discretionary. They must be standardized, simple and transparent. The staff must be professionalized and client-oriented. Their performance will be measured by their results.
How very Jesse Robredo.
How very Vico Sotto.