A LEADER WHO WALKS THE TALK
Barangay Chairperson Roxas is a leader who commands and directs by example; espousing a credible and generous brand of leadership.
BY ROSY MINA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ROMEO PERALTA JR.
It’s 6:30 in the morning, just over an hour after sunrise. While most barangay chairpersons are about to get their day started, Alfredo “Freddy” Roxas is already at the Barangay Kaligayahan Hall in Quezon City—a routine for the second-term chairman.
“When it comes to leadership, you should set a very good example. Kailangang ipakita mo kung ano ‘yung gusto mong maging direction sa mga tao (It is necessary that you show the people the direction you want to take),” Roxas tells LEAGUE.
He gestures to the table where he takes his breakfast daily, sharing that such practice began when he was working in his family’s school that caters to preschool up to college students.\
He confesses to being late a few times, arriving at 7 a.m., which is still earlier than the usual start of office hours.
Because of this, his employees have become time-conscious as well.
“Napasunod ko sila hindi dahil sa sinasabi ko. Napasunod ko sila dahil ginagawa ko (I was able to make them do the same not because I told them to. They followed what I do).”
Roxas, 58, was born to a business-minded family in Tondo, Manila. He himself got into small ventures before putting up their school.
Since the 1990s, Roxas and his family have been giving grocery packs to residents near the school every Christmas. It was because of this holiday gift-giving that Roxas became known in the neighborhood, prompting residents to ask if he wanted to be their barangay chairperson.
That was more than two decades ago, and his answer was a resounding no.
“Walang pulitiko sa pamilya eh (There were no politicians in the family),” reasons the BS Mathematics graduate.
“Until such time na kakakulit, kakakulit (that with persistent prompting), I tried to run for the barangay chairperson position in 2007. Wala, hindi nga ako interesado, talo ako (Since I was not really interested, I lost) by more than a hundred votes,” Roxas laments.
He ran again in 2010, after much prompting, and lost because his interest remained half-hearted and his family was not for it. In 2013, it was third time’s the charm when he said to himself that he wanted to prevail, and he finally won.
What changed Roxas’ mind after all those years of shunning politics? “Hinahanap ko na ‘yung pag-iikot ko sa area. Hinahanap ko na ‘yung makapag-serve sa kanila (I was already longing for the experience of going around the area. I was longing for the chance to be able to serve them),” he reveals. The possibility of helping more people with government funds encouraged Roxas to give it another shot, especially since he had experienced many hardships since childhood.
“Lahat ng hirap, struggles sa buhay, inabot namin. But then ‘yung sipag, tiyaga ng grandparents, parents ko, ‘yun ang nagmotivate sa buong family na magsikap talaga (We experienced all sorts of hardships and struggles in life. But then the diligence and perseverance of my grandparents and parents motivated the whole family to strive hard),” he says about growing up in a depressed area in Tondo.
“So don’t give up. Habang buhay tayo ay may pag-asa. Importante lang huwag ka mang apak ng kapwa mo. Araw-araw basta nagsisikap ka, darating din ‘yan (For as long as we live, there is hope. What is important is that you don’t aggravate your neighbor. As long as you are striving every day, you will get where you want to be).”
Because of his life story, his advocacies involve prioritizing and providing assistance for those in depressed areas as well as senior citizens, persons with disability (PWDs), and solo parents.
A HALL OF FAMER SO SOON
Roxas relates that he promised his constituents, “Ipagmamalaki nilang tagaBarangay Kaligayahan sila. Kasi sa city, hindi naman kilala ang Barangay Kaligayahan kasi wala namang awards na nakukuha (They will be proud that they are from Barangay Kaligayahan. Because Barangay Kaligayahan is not well-known in the city as it had not received awards).”
In his first term, he thrice received the Dangal ng Lungsod Award—the highest recognition given to a well-performing barangay by the local government of Quezon City and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
In 2020, during his second term—which he won via landslide victory—he was declared a Dangal ng Lungsod Hall of Famer for winning the award for three consecutive years.
He notes that out of the 142 barangays in Quezon City, only five are Dangal ng Lungsod Hall of Famers, with the other four having achieved it after their respective chairpersons were already in office for more than a decade.
“Kapag meron akong pinasok, gusto ko maging achiever. Gusto ko maging performer. Hands-on talaga ako, nakatutok ako lagi. Kahit noong nasa sales pa ako, kapag talagang ginusto ko maging topnotcher, talagang tinututukan ko nang husto (Once I get involved in something, I want to be an achiever. I want to be a performer. I am really hands-on and always focused. Even when I was in sales, when I really wanted to be a topnotcher, I really focused well on it).” Roxas became the Quezon City Liga ng mga Barangay (LnB) President in 2018, which is a great achievement for him because he earned the trust of chairpersons from districts that have more barangays than District 5, which only has 14.
With several job titles, including chairperson of the Committee on Barangay Affairs, Roxas juggles his responsibilities to accomplish more aside from implementing livelihood and support projects. Among his accomplishments are the quarterly LnB Consultative Assemblies, Barangay Anti-Crime Patrol Group, institutionalization of the barangay public safety officers, and provision of LnB medical and hospitalization cash incentives or reimbursements.
“Yun ang binago ko, ‘yung image talaga ng barangay (I changed the image of the barangay),” declares Roxas, who paved the way for the construction of facilities and buildings in Barangay Kaligayahan and installation of solar panel LED street lights and 185 closed circuit television (CCTV) units, with plans to add 20 more.
PASSION TO SERVE
Roxas may have made it look easy to achieve a lot in such a short time, but it is definitely not a walk in the park. “24/7 kasi ang role ng barangay chairperson. Wala ka talagang pahinga. Kung talagang nasa puso ‘yung pagiging kapitan, 24/7 ‘yan (The role of a barangay chairperson is 24/7. You don’t really have time to rest. If being chairperson is really in your heart, it is a 24/7 commitment).” Before he sleeps, he would monitor developments in his barangay over the radio and give orders to contact him when something happens.
“Ayokong may lalabas na problema diyan na hindi ko alam, ‘yung sasabog na lang sa mukha ko. Doon nila ako nakikitang magalit.
Huwag kayong magtatakipan. Dahil mas maganda, may problema, sa umpisa palang inaayos na natin (I don’t like it when a problem arises and I am kept in the dark about it. It will just explode in my face. That is when they see me get angry. Don’t cover up one another’s mistakes. Because it is better to nip a problem in the bud).”
Despite the demands of his job, what keeps him going is the passion to serve and set a good example for his employees and constituents.
“‘Pag ‘yung tao dumating sa iyong umiiyak o kaya nakasimangot dahil sa problema, at umalis sa iyong nakangiti na gumaan ‘yung buhay, ‘yun ang nagpapasaya sa akin. ‘Yun ang nagmo-motivate sa akin (When a person comes and he is crying or frowning because of a problem, and leaves smiling because his life was made better, that is what makes me happy. That is what motivates me).”
PANDEMIC CHALLENGES AND REALIZATIONS Looking back on his political career, Roxas cites the Dangal ng Lungsod Hall of Fame and serving during the COVID-19 pandemic as his most memorable moments.
He shares anecdotes on the pandemic from the barangay chairpersons’ perspective.
“Nag-iiyakan ‘yun kasi sa hirap ng problema, sa dami ng problemang inaabot ng barangay (They were crying because of the gravity of the problems, the many problems that the barangay had to deal with),” he says, adding that they had to deal with providing ayuda (assistance) every day from the barangay, city, and national government.
Aside from finding ways to efficiently provide financial and material assistance, barangays also had to repack grocery items, set up checkpoints, monitor patients and hotspots, and man the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs). As the pandemic was unprecedented, it was tricky and risky to go about it. He says it was difficult to reconcile the government’s goal to minimize the spread of the virus with the public’s need to go out and make a living.
With the pandemic still ongoing albeit currently on the downtrend, Roxas hails the barangay employees as selfless public servants. He sadly shares that several barangay chairpersons and kagawads (barangay councilmen) have passed away due to COVID-19, and many have contracted the virus. Fortunately he has not been infected, but has been isolated from his family for almost two years because of the nature of his job. “Hindi nagpasarap mga kapitan natin. Frontliners talaga ang barangay [officials] (Our chairpersons did not have a good time. Barangay officials are really frontliners),” he remarks. “Bigayan ng ayuda, wala kaming pakialam kung may COVID-19 ‘yung dadalhan namin. Dire-diretso lang kami (When we give out assistance, we do not care if the recipients have COVID-19. We just go straight ahead).”
NO PLACE FOR GREED IN PUBLIC SERVICE
Even before and during the pandemic, Roxas makes known that his accomplishments are fruits of cooperation. “Team effort ‘yan, lahat ng empleyado ng barangay (That is a team effort, all of the barangay employees). From the barangay captain down to the street sweepers. Kahit na street sweepers ko, may contribution sa lahat ng awards namin. Sa lahat ng trabaho namin, kasama sila (Even my street sweepers have a contribution to all of our awards. In all our work, they are with us).” On a personal note, Roxas opens up about not making it in this year’s electoral race for seats in the city council. Despite this, he carries on with demonstrating fidelity to duty. The day after the May 9 elections, Roxas was back in the barangay hall at 6:30 a.m.
“Kaysa magmukmok ako sa bahay (Instead of moping at home),” he shares, “Trabaho na lang ako. ‘Yun ang ginawa ko (I just worked. That’s what I did).” He accepts the limitations of his term, and continues to wish for greater prosperity for Barangay Kaligayahan. “Ayaw ko ring sabihin na gusto ko ako ‘yung magaling lang na kapitan ng barangay. Gusto ko ‘yung susunod sa akin maging mas magaling (I do not want to say that I want myself to be the only good chairperson of the barangay. I want my successor to be better than me).” Apart from being credible, Roxas brand of leadership is also generous.
“Sa public service, hindi ka kailangang greedy. Kailangan diyan sa public service, gusto mo marami kang kasamang magagaling (In public service, you should not be greedy. What is needed in public service is that you want to be surrounded by great colleagues),” he asserts. “Dahil kapag marami kayong magagaling, magiging madali ang trabaho at maraming taong makikinabang (Because when a lot of public servants are great, the work will be easier and more people will benefit from it),” he ends.