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Progressive, Loving Leadership

With her years of experience and her father’s guiding words, Caloocan City Vice Mayor Karina Teh is determined to improve the lives of women, children, and families.



In her 15 years of public service, Karina Teh became an acting vice mayor a few times, serving as the presiding officer of the city council session of her hometown, Caloocan.

The then 1st District councilor recounts to LEAGUE that she posted about being vice mayor for a day “kasi pinapakita ko na (because I was showing that) I can do this.”

As if that social media post was a sign of things to come, the 35-year-old wife and mother of a three-year-old boy ran for vice mayor this year.

“It’s time na maramdaman naman ng mga taga-Caloocan paano mamuno, paano kumalinga ang isang babaeng leader sa Caloocan (for the people of Caloocan to feel the caring leadership of a female leader in Caloocan),” she shares.

On May 9, Caloocan finally had another female vice mayor after 25 years in Teh, the daughter of the late councilor and human rights lawyer Atty. Ramon Teh.

“Kung merong kuya o tatay, meron naman ding mommy o ate na babalanse doon sa working mechanics namin for Caloocan (If there is a big brother or father, there is also a mother or big sister who will balance our working mechanics for Caloocan),” she says of her working relationship with elected Mayor Dale “Along” Malapitan, her running mate and former 1st District representative.


Teh attests that before becoming a politician, she was extremely shy, with the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Communication Arts graduate preferring to work behind the camera as a researcher and segment producer for GMA-7.

But as the eldest of three children of lawyer parents, Teh was present during the house-to-house campaigns of her father when he ran for councilor. She also occasionally joined her sister onstage for intermission numbers during campaign rallies.

When her father won in 2007, he encouraged Teh to try to be a kagawad of Barangay 179 since she was active in the student body and other organizations during college. Her father pointed out that if she loses, there would still be many opportunities as she was only 21 years old then. And if she prevails, it would be an opportunity to help others. She finally gave it a try, but encountered another hindrance: “Mahirap pala

(Turns out, it’s difficult) to campaign for yourself because when I was campaigning for my father, syempre iba ‘yung tingin ko sa kaniya, feeling ko superhero siya (of course I looked at him differently, as if he were my superhero).”

She decided to shift the focus away from herself and instead direct the spotlight toward advocacies closest to her heart: women and youth. And it was effective because she became a two-term kagawad.

In 2012, her father was set to run for Congress but unfortunately, passed away. This led his

political party to make changes to their slate and offer her a slot for the city council position. Teh took on the challenge and became a councilor for three consecutive terms from 2013 to 2022.


Throughout her public service career, Teh has been greatly

influenced by her father, sharing “Siya talaga ‘yung nagmulat, hindi

lang sa akin but our family, na kailangan maging hindi lang basta

matulungin ka (He was the one who enlightened us, not just me but

our family, that just being helpful is not enough).”

She continues, “Kailangan maging progressive rin tayo sa mga

bagay na ina-advocate natin para sa tao kasi syempre, hindi naman

natin gugustuhin na maging dependent lang sila sa government o

sa kanilang servant leaders (We also need to be progressive in the

things we advocate for the people because of course, we do not

want them to be just dependent on the government or their servant


Teh encapsulates her brand of leadership in these words—

“Progresibo pero mapagmahal na pamumuno (Progressive but loving

governance)—being progressive for me means being innovative

and resourceful in providing public service and pushing for my

advocacies. While a loving leadership means gently yet consistently

introducing reforms that are responsive to the needs of our

community, city, and country. As a woman leader, I know that there

is strength in love, gentleness and kindness, and those are things I

want my constituents to feel.”

The vice mayor also cites how her father stressed the need to

empower constituents with life-changing services.

What her father started as a lawyer, she and her mother

continued in 2013 when they held free legal clinics together

with other lawyers to address problems on residential lands, the

community mortgage program, gender and child abuse cases, and

the absence and invalidity of birth certificates—a primary document

required for enrollment, graduation, and work, especially for

overseas employment.

“So ‘yung iba, just because may problema sila sa birth certificate,

nababawasan ‘yung opportunity nila sa buhay (So for somes, just

because there is a problem with their birth certificate, they’re

hindered from certain opportunities in life),” she laments.

The chairperson of the Committee on Women and Family

remained faithful to her advocacies by conducting livelihood

programs and seminars on rights and privileges, and added more

initiatives for their city’s families since she started her own in 2019.

“Naniniwala ako na dapat magbigay tayo ng focus sa family kasi

kung ano man ‘yung mga problema (I believe that we should give

focus on the family because whatever the problems are) within the

family, it’s a reflection of a problem in the society,” Teh underscores.

She helped the usually neglected sector of solo parents through

relief distribution and livelihood projects, one of which is the doughnut-making program implemented in almost half of the city’s

188 barangays in partnership with Sangguniang Kabataan (SK)


In a recent campaign rally, Teh related that a beneficiary informed

her about his ongoing doughnut business which received capital in

the form of ingredients and materials, “Natutuwa ako kasi ibig sabihin

kung mayroong isang success story sa isang community, hopefully,

na-mirror siya sa other communities na binabaan namin (I am glad

because it means that if there is one success story in a community,

hopefully this was mirrored in other communities where the program

was implemented).”


Aside from hearing success stories during the 2022 campaign, Teh

also received presents such as santol, puto, carioca, kilos of mangoes,

and even flowers from two young boys who followed her when she

was going from house to house.

“Talagang naramdaman ko rin ‘yung appreciation ng mga tao kasi

sabi ng father ko, kapag masa na ‘yung nagpakain sa ‘yo, ibig sabihin

nakatanim ka na sa puso nila (I really felt the appreciation of the

people because my father said, if the masses feed you, it means you

have already taken root in their hearts),” she shares.

She cherishes all the resolutions and ordinances that she passed,

including the ones for the Caloocan Nature Park, which is the city’s

first; provision of additional benefits for solo parents, which is

presently done by only a few cities; and the New Children’s Code of

Caloocan City.

Teh, who became the youngest majority floor leader of the

Caloocan City Council when she was 26 years old, was the main

author of the additional budget for the University of Caloocan City’s

construction of new buildings and improvement of other facilities.

Amid the rundown of her accomplishments, Teh is quick to give

credit to her staff, who were her father’s scholars absorbed into her


“I could not have done this on my own, so I am very lucky na

meron akong napakasisipag na (that I have a very hardworking)

team,” she says, adding that they were more than willing to reach out

to constituents during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This allowed Teh to implement COVID-19 programs such as the

Libreng Sakay for frontliners and essential workers, and provision of

relief goods and hot meals.

Ultimately, she is proud of the Filipinos’ readiness to lend a

helping hand.

“God really provides. ‘Yung parang feeling mo sobrang helpless

and hopeless ka na, biglang may darating na tutulong sa ‘yo kaya maitutulong mo rin siya sa ibang tao (When you feel like you are so

helpless and hopeless already, help suddenly comes your way which

enables you to assist other people),” she muses.


As she juggles her roles as a wife, mother, and public servant, Teh is

driven to serve to the best of her abilities.

“It’s the sense of responsibility kasi nakakahiya naman sa tao.

Dahil overwhelming ‘yung love and support na nararamdaman natin

mula sa tao, gusto rin naman natin ‘yun mabalik sa kanila (because it

would be embarrassing to the people. Because of the overwhelming

love and support that we feel from the people, we also want to give

them the same),” she explains.

The vice mayor admits, though, that there are times when

resources are limited, and she addresses this by using her personal

money to help those requesting for solicitations, medical support,

and burial assistance.

The challenge of finding resources worsened during the

pandemic, and Teh dealt with it by seeking more partners and

welcoming donations. During her third term as city councilor, Teh

encountered several challenges like being the target of malicious

social media posts and internal political conflicts. She acknowledged

that challenges are part of her journey, so instead of dwelling on it,

she focused on improving the quality of her public service.

She wants to do away with competing with fellow public

servants, reasoning that “kapagka tiningnan mo ‘yun as a

competition with others, hindi na kayo magiging productive (when

you look at it as a competition with others, you will no longer be


However, it reached a point when edited photos of her were part

of a malicious Facebook post, which she reported and was eventually

taken down: “Sabi ko, focus nalang tayo sa good part. Tsaka kasi if I

show other people na affected ako sa ginawa, matutuwa pa kung sino

man ‘yung gumawa nun na affected ako (I said, let’s just focus on the

good part. Besides, if I show other people that I am affected by what

was done, whoever did that will be happy that I became affected).”

At the end of the day, her political career is all about constant


“Kailangan every year, every term ay gumaganda, nadadagdagan, nag-i-improve ‘yung serbisyo na binibigay natin sa tao. Hindi

pupuwedeng stagnant (It is necessary that every year and

every term, the service provided for the people must be better,

increasing, and improving. It cannot be stagnant),” she says.


As she continues to serve in a higher capacity, she declares, “I want

to show that I am a good ally for the progress of Caloocan City.”

With regard to the city council, she wants to instill discipline,

improve systems, and upgrade via digitalization so that ordinances

and resolutions are accessible online.

“Medyo babalansehin natin. Saktong tapang at tamis ‘yung

gusto nating pamumuno sa konseho (We will somehow balance it. I

want the leadership of the council to have just the right amount of

tenacity and gentleness),” Teh explains.

She also assures the continuation of providing legal aid,

promoting her advocacies, and doing her favorite part of the job:

visiting communities to know the sentiments of her constituents.

During the campaign, she always mentioned, “Ang gusto

natin ay makaahon mula sa pandemya at umabante tungo sa mas

magandang kinabukasan (What we want is for us to rise above the

pandemic and move toward a better future).”

She plans to do this by helping attract investors, creating

effective livelihood programs for neglected sectors, improving the

health sector, and ensuring a safe system for students in face-toface

classes. While Teh admits that her laundry list of plans and

duties could get overwhelming, she is hopeful that with the help of

the city officials and the citizens of their city, anything is possible.

She then expresses gratitude to her beloved Caloocan:

“Maraming, maraming salamat sa inyong pagmamahal at suporta

na ipinakita sa amin, sa akin, mula noon hanggang ngayon. Hindi

ko ‘yun malilimutan (Many, many thanks for the love and support

that you have shown to us, to me, since then until now. I will never

forget that).”

She ends her message with, “At kahit saan man ako magpunta,

ipagmamalaki ko na ako ay isang ‘Batang Kankaloo’ at sisikapin

ko na mapaglingkuran kayo nang tapat at lubos (And wherever I

may go, I will be proud to be a Child of Caloocan and will strive to

serve you faithfully and fully).”

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