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Breathing Fresh Air into Local Politics

Laguna Board Member Danzel Fernandez leads generational changing of the guards.



Every election in the Philippines is a time for change, and the 2022 elections in the 1st District of Laguna were no different. It was one of the elections wherein members of G en Z (those born in the late 90s to early 2010s) took part, both as voters and candidates, and with the new generation comes the desire to have young leaders who reflect their values. Danzel Rafter Fernandez is one of these new leaders.

Fernandez, the son of Santa Rosa, Laguna Representative Dan Fer nandez and actress Sheila Ysrael, is one of the best representatives of his generation—digitally savvy, well-educated, and self-aware—and he understands this yearning for change.

“I believe the reason w hy people voted for me is for one, I am young. Kung mapapansin mo marami ngayon sa bagong politicians natin (If you noticed, many of our new politicians now) are young individuals. And I believe that as young individuals, we are more attuned to the new things happ ening, the changes that we have, not on ly in the p olitical sphere, pati na rin sa (but also) changes in technology, health, or kung anumang (other various) sectors,” says Fernandez.

“Siguro ang gusto din ng mga tao is some one new. Someone who is not of traditional na pinanggagalingan. Kumbaga, para makabago yung itsura, makabago yung nakaupo, bago din yung mamumuno at tutulong sa tao (I guess people are also looking for someone new. Someone who is not of traditional upbringing. It’s like, to change the system, you change the leadership, you elect someone new to help the people),” he adds.

The ne west member of Laguna’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) is aware of the challenges of his new position and displays wisdom that b elies his 24 years of age.

“Kung iisipin mo, sa sobrang dami nang naging board members in the past, parang maiisip mo lahat na ng ordinance nagawa na eh (If you think about it, so many people have been board members in the past, it’s almost like they’ve made every ordinance you could think of). Like, what else can you add, what can you do? So, the only way you could know kung anong kailangang gawin (what you need to do) is to go down to people and ask,” says Fernandez.

Walking the talk, his agenda is based on consultations with people on the ground, along with his own assessment of what Laguna needs at this time.

“I remember I consulted the people, other leaders regarding the current situation. There is a problem in our city wherein people are underemployed. Especially now, with the pandemic which caused plenty of people to lose their jobs, plenty of people lost their businesses,” he reveals.

The young legislator looks to the members of his generation to help with the solution.

“On the bright side of the pandemic, marami tayong mga bagong young entrepreneurs, bagong mga negosyo, so I want to help them in terms of legislation kasi ‘yun ‘yung trabaho ko sa pagiging (we have plenty of new young entrepreneurs, new businesses, so I want to help them in terms of legislation because that’s my job as a) board member,” says Fernandez.

The board member, who heads the Committees on Trade and Industry and Labor and Employment, is looking to pass measures that would help all concerned. For example, in labor, he is looking to create an ordinance to incentivize businesses in the province to hire the youth, and grants or other forms of support to small businesses to help them with their recovery.

Despite starting his term only on July 1, the young legislator has already started looking into how to accomplish his aims, working with the Laguna office of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in his capacity as chairman of the Trade and Industry Committee to see how the agency assists small entrepreneurs.

“I was in Pagsanjan, Laguna, we gave away kits for the beneficiaries. The beneficiaries had various types of businesses— tailors, barbers, and store owners. We gave away products worth Php15,000 for their businesses,” Fernandez shares.

Unlike many politicians, Fernandez was careful to give credit where credit was due and did not claim the project. He insisted that the project was DTI’s, and he was there to show support and help inform his constituents that these programs exist.

On his own, Fernandez already launched his #BMSupportsLocal campaign, where he helps promote businesses in his district, leveraging his background as a social media influencer prior to his political career.

Fernandez’s advocacies are a product of his education. He took up AB Psychology and BS Business Management at De La Salle University (DLSU) and is due to graduate in September. He has also been accepted to San Beda Alabang’s law program and is to begin his part-time studies there as he fulfills his obligations as a lawmaker.

“Being a psychology student, one of my advocacies is mental health… I want to build a mental health facility here in our district. And I also want to create an ordinance wherein we’ll have a youth mental health office where young individuals could go and ask for help regarding their mental health.”

“Mental health is a right that everyone should really have. And here in our area, as far as I know, we don’t have an area where we could seek that needed help,” he adds.

Fernandez is also an advocate of reproductive health and other programs to help his fellow youth, such as projects that address teenage pregnancies and juvenile delinquency. He wants to enact an ordinance to give support to teenage parents to help lighten the burden on their families.

“Having an ordinance which could help our teenage mothers financially or be given benefits similar to that of solo parents to also help their families,” Fernandez says.

While already in a position to advance his advocacies, Fernandez is aware of the influence of his father, although he is firm that the decision to run was his own, and he wants to be known for his own merits.

“Actually, it’s also a part of my campaign. I really wanted to keep quiet about the fact that my father is Congressman Dan Fernandez. And honestly, it’s really difficult to detach that way of thinking, especially since my dad is a long-time politician and he’s helped so many people, implemented many programs, and passed bills in Congress. Really, his impact is hard to detach from myself especially since my last name is Fernandez,” he reveals.

Acknowledging the issue of political dynasties, Fernandez says, “Voters want someone young, someone totally new to break the stigma of, ‘Ah, they’re just from the same family,’ it’s just them again and again. But for me, I wanted to really make use of the things I learned, my education. I studied for a long time and I want to show the people that I could use my education and my government experience—as my father’s former chief of staff—to really help and bring that new brand of leadership.”

Fernandez touts his brand of leadership as a “servantleadership”, vowing to be present and work side by side with his people.

“When I lead, when I engage with people, I lead by example. Ayoko ‘yung, alam mo ‘yung may mga leaders kasi na utos-utos lang pero hindi mo sila makikita na sila yung gumagawa. Kasi sa’kin, feel ko if makita nila na ‘yung leader, isa siya sa gumagawa, isa siya sa tumutulong (I don’t want to be like one of those leaders that always order people around but you never see them actually putting in work. For me, I feel like if people see their leaders working, that he’s one of the people helping out), everything else will follow,” he says.

Fernandez’s path to service started as early as his childhood, for which he gives credit to his Lasallian education.

“Because I come from a Lasallian school, from my kinder up until college, [I studied in] La Salle. Elementary and high school De La Salle University Integrated School here in Biñan. College, I studied at De La Salle University in Manila. It was through my education that I came to realize that helping is something I really love doing, at the same time leading,” Fernandez says, adding that leading people and organizing was something he’s been doing ever since childhood.

Fernandez says that his father was an important, but not decisive, factor in his decision to run. While his father, Congressman Danilo Fernandez of Santa Rosa’s lone district, is his role model, the decision to run was entirely his own. Whatever his decision is in life, he remarks, his parents are always there to support and respect him.

Nevertheless, he gives credit to his father and his upbringing for developing his sense of service to others.

“Ang pinaka-memorable sa’kin, was siguro a culmination of the reason why I wanted to run din (The most memorable [experience] for me would have to be the culmination of why I wanted to run as well). Ever since I was a child, I was always there, lalo na ‘pag nagkacampaign ‘yung dad ko. Not only in campaigns but also ‘yung may mga programs siyang ginagawa (especially whenever my dad would campaign. Not only in campaigns but also whenever he would be implementing programs),” says Fernandez, recalling his memories as a child.

Whenever he would join in his father’s campaign, he would be there to talk to the people. As he grew older, Fernandez also joined in on the programs of this father which eventually led him to the realization of the work of a politician, helping people in need. Then came the enlightenment that it was something that he could pursue.

As the son of a politician, he is inevitably asked about his future plans, to which Fernandez says he wants to do his job well and make decisions about the future when it comes.

“What I want to do is to do my job well. Right now, kung anuman ang position ko ngayon, ‘yun ang gusto kong sipagan (whatever my position is right now, it’s what I should be working hard as). And whatever comes my way in the future, I’ll deal with it when I get there,” Fernandez says, adding, “Right now, gusto kong pagbutihan para mapunta talaga ‘yung tiwala ng tao sa kin, hindi lang dahil anak ako ng aking ama (I want to work really hard to earn people’s trust, not just because I’m the son of my father).”

“To my constituents here in the first district of Laguna, si [Board Member] Danzel Fernandez po ay baguhan man, pero handanghanda akong maglingkod po sa inyong lahat. I do hope na tuloy niyo akong suportahan at sana din po ay hindi kayo mawalan ng tiwala sa’kin (I may be new to politics, but I am more than ready to serve all of you. I do hope that you continue to support me and not lose faith in me),” he ends.

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