With no clear end to the Coronavirus pandemic in sight, Mayor Vico Sotto buckles down and does the work, emerging as a crack of light in a gravely grim and uncertain time.
In the span of a politician’s career, claiming electoral victory is the easy part. In fact, a lot would even agree that the period of campaign requires much more from a candidate physically, mentally, and psychologically. But for the fortunate winner called on by the constituency to lead, the real test of political acumen and tenacity begins in the period of the first 100 days of assumption to office—and no one recognizes this reality more than Pasig city Mayor, Vico Sotto.
“Ito na po siguro ang pinaka mahirap na isang daang araw sa buong buhay ko,” the first-term Mayor admits during his State of the City Address back in October of 2019, where he has made it explicitly clear that he wasn’t messing around with his state-sanctioned duties and responsibilities. Since running a successful, no-fuss, and organic campaign replete of traditional political circus elements such as personalities, song and dance, and sun and moon promises, Vico Sotto has buckled down and done the work, immediately suspending the highly contested odd-even coding traffic scheme, defending workers rights against illegal contracting, and actively cracking down corrupt city bureaucrats.
Over time, the fairly neophyte politician, with only a single term at the City Council to his name, was taking bigger swings of dismantling the ratifications of a long-standing, patronage political-subscribing dynasty, as realized in the curbing corruption with an impressive 150 million peso savings on public biddings, regularizing of city government employees, cracking down on illegal businesses, and challenging foreign-owned commerce without permits. Slowly, surely, and with little to no fanfare, Mayor Vico Sotto has hit an even more confident stride to his governance, which was already evident before he assumed office.
In this video clip, Karen Davila asks me:
1. How will I change how Pasig’s 10.7B is spent?
2. Will I be able to resist corruption? https://t.co/ltzNe6Ey2X
— Vico Sotto (@VicoSotto) April 6, 2019
Coming into his own, he has completely shifted the persistent connections from his entertainment and political-rich heritage to something more substantial and proactive, as is his proactive, ideal, but astute style of leadership. It shouldn’t be of surprise, especially if you followed his rise in the ranks and consciousness of the jaded and deluded mainstream. In a sit-down conversation with Karen Davila during his campaign, he stressed how he intended to reallocate Pasig city’s billion peso budget and funnel into societal cornerstones such as localized healthcare system, livelihood projects, and education.
Where Philippine politics is considered, we have long had a troubled relationship with charisma and fresh faces, often being dazzled by charm and their inundated promise of change. But as we have come to terms with, perhaps almost painfully and to an extent of regret, the magnetic fascination eventually fizzles out, relenting to disappointment. “Ako naman andito ako para i-challenge ‘yung sistema natin and what used to be the norm. Panahon na that we challenge it, baguhin na natin, and that’s my challenge to the media and the politicians, including myself kasi hindi naman ako perfect and everybody as well,” he stated when discussing the healthcare rollout he planned in a separate conversation. Careful to ground his statements on the tangible and transparent, making him more accountable to his constituents.
Needless to say, there has been a constant need to exercise vigilance in the turbulent and often tempestuous realm of Philippine politics. Where broken promises and grain-of-salt pronouncements are currencies peddled as normal, it can be said that we have become accustomed, and perhaps to an extent, perpetrated a mediocre at best kind of governance. If you think about it, this could be the very reason why we as a nation are easily impressed by grandstanding and lofty ideals, because while we crave a functioning government that answers to the needs of its citizens, we never really truly get what we deserve. In a progression of one step forward, two steps back, no real change is ever met—and in the end, we are left at square one.
It therefore comes to no surprise that when someone actually performs their bible and constitution-sworn duties, we are completely enamored. Far from an outcry, there stemmed a dilemma when the flames of fandom was being fanned: Why praise something that is expected of them?
When the Coronavirus outbreak sharpened its claws and dug deep in the reality of the Filipino nation, everyone was immediately consumed by uncertainty and hysteria. With no clear, concise, and commanding leader to turn to, the country was understandably on the brink of social chaos. However, as the reality of the pandemic became all too real, the government finally hunkered down and enacted a community quarantine, now enhanced, outlining the plan of action of flatten the curve of Covid-19. With this pronouncement came the delegation to the local government units and their heads to implement as needed. And so they did the work, some admittedly, better than others.
Proactive and pragmatic, Mayor Vico Sotto wasted no time in ensuring his city was well-equipped and cushioned for the full brunt of the Coronavirus outbreak. In a matter of days, the city government of Pasig swiftly responded by mounting sanitation tents at the entrances of city hall and all hospitals in their territory, ensuring the salaries of government workers during the lockdown, provided frontliners with transportation (even temporarily allowing tricycles to mobilize residents), imposing an anti-panic buying and hoarding ordinance, set up mobile kitchens for frontliners at gateways and hospitals, enacting thorough sanitation and disinfecting measures throughout the city (which also included the procuring of high-tech disinfectant drones), and as widely circulated on social media, distributing an emergency pack of essentials to every household in a bag without vested interest or personal branding. Operating for the city with his efficient and forward-thinking team, the young gun in the league of Metro Manila mayors was without a doubt playing by the rulebook set before him by revered statesmen and irreprehensible public servants.
In the feral face of the crisis, there was a mandate in action with little to no circus-like fanfare, except of course, the standard reporting on Twitter and Facebook to assure his electorate that everything is under control. There’s no pussyfooting around this: modern problems demand modern answers. Strategic and solutions-based, the young blood wasted no time with political peacocking, and instead, he rolled up his sleeves, did the work as expected of him, and by a lot of standards, exceeded the mandate. Respectful but with full conviction, he is able to successfully navigate and maneuver his way through an unparalleled circumstance, further testing his skills as a duly elected leader. Even when criticized by once-upon-a-time officials and hemline-dwelling-wannabe-mouthpieces, he has kept his composure and held on to his unerring grit, defending the everyman instead of the select and skewed interests of an insecure few. “Lahat na lang gusto nilang gawin politika,” he exasperates, assuring his constituents that gossip-mongering trolls do not faze him. “We are just trying to do our best to save lives.”
It has long been argued, going as far back as natural selection, that only strong will survive. While we often looked to a singular sort of strength, time has revealed a nuance to survival, one that entails intelligence, empathy, and the acute ability to adapt. Nothing is truer than in the case of governance, where in the face of extreme circumstances and crises, the true leader is revealed from those masquerading as one. Concerned and compassionate, formidable and firm, bold and brilliant, Mayor Vico Sotto is that crack of light our very definition of politics desperately needs.
Where he will humbly defer from all the larger-than-life pronouncements and would rather commit to the path before him, simply doing what is expected and sworn by him, let it be known that as it stands in a shifting status quo, he could just very well be the leader we not only need, but deserve.