ISABELA 6TH DISTRICT CONGRESSMAN FAUSTINO “INNO” DY V
Believing that there are no small roles when it comes to public service and that young leaders could make a difference where it matters, Faustino “Inno” Dy decided to join public service in 2018. At the age of 27, he became the barangay chairman of Barangay San Fabian in the town of Echague, Isabela. His reason: “It is important for me to get to know what’s happening at the barangay level because there are so many problems that need to be addressed, especially since you get to see the people daily.”
THE YOUNGEST OF THE DYS IN THE PROVINCE OF ISABELA IS ATTEMPTING TO DEMONSTRATE THAT A SOLID FOUNDATION IN PUBLIC SERVICE SHOULD BEGIN AT THE BARANGAY LEVEL.
KEEPING GRASSROOTS CONCERNS IN MIND
Now in his second term as congressman of Isabela’s 6th District, Dy looks back at his experiences as barangay chairman as the start of his habit of visiting the grassroots. He talks warmly with LEAGUE about how fascinating his experiences as barangay chairman were. “You get to handle almost all problems. They would even make you resolve marital issues. It was a big responsibility. It was a really good experience for me when I was starting because it really opened my eyes to the realities,” shares Dy.
Dy’s initial foray into politics was not confined to Barangay San Fabian, though. He became an ex-officio member of Isabela’s Provincial Board after being elected as the provincial president of the Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas (League of Barangays in the Philippines). His election as the national president of the Liga ng mga Barangay in 2019 further deepened his interest in barangay-related issues. However, he served for only one and a half years as another door to serve opened up for him. Looking back, he would have stayed in Liga ng mga Barangay in order to implement numerous programs for the barangays. According to him, the Liga ng mga Barangay would have afforded him the chance to personally hear the concerns of barangay officials across the nation, as he had the chance to travel to various regions.
With the creation of the 6th Congressional District of Isabela in 2019, Dy ran for congressman. His new position did not wean him from his previous efforts, but instead enabled him to advance his cause for the barangays. He soon realized that being a congressman was an opportunity for him to pursue what he was supposed to do for the Liga ng mga Barangay, and not only for his district in Isabela. Dy explains, “Sinasabi ko nga at least ngayon may boses na rin ako, we can really champion kung ano din ‘yung pinaglaban namin dati sa liga, kung ano ‘yung pinu-push naming mga program. Kung ano ‘yung mga benefit na dapat para sa mga barangay official. Kasi napakahirap talaga. (At least we now have a voice, and we can really advocate for the programs that we started pushing and fighting for in the Liga, including the benefits due barangay officials).”
Dy is saddened by the plight of barangay workers whose only compensation for their services is an honorarium. He states that the honoraria received by barangay officials and workers are insufficient to compensate them for their hard work. This is also one of the reasons why he proposed House Bill No. (HB) 1204, or the proposed Magna Carta for Barangays. The bill is still pending with the Committee on Local Government.
The bill seeks to make barangay officials and workers regular government employees entitled to fixed salaries, allowances, and other benefits. Giving them such status, however, will subject them to the Salary Standardization Law, something that has stalled the discussions regarding the bill. A major challenge is determining the exact salary that barangay officials and workers will receive, since the amount would depend on the class of the municipality or city to which a barangay belongs. “The budgets of the 42,000 barangays are not uniform because these vary depending on the municipality or city to which they belong.
So, if we set, say, a Php10,000 monthly salary [for a particular position], we cannot be certain that the municipalities or cities to which the [covered officials] belong can afford it,” Dy explains. Meanwhile, the technical working group is also looking at all possible benefits for barangay officials and workers.
The young lawmaker is optimistic that the bill will be approved in this Congress, given that others have also introduced similar legislation in the past Congresses. These bills, according to Dy, are also a recognition of the efforts and services rendered by barangay officials and employees. “Imagine that some of them have served in the barangay for 15 to 20 years without receiving retirement benefits. So, it is necessary to consider the benefits of barangay officials.”
Another one of Dy’s bills is HB 1137, which mandates that the government procure at least 30 percent of the vegetables and other supplies needed to implement the National Feeding Program from small-scale farmers. Dy believes that aside from strengthening and enhancing the school feeding program, this amendment to Republic Act (RA) No. 11037, or the Masustansyang Pagkain Para sa Batang Pilipino Act, will also present better livelihood opportunities for local farmers.
Twenty percent of the kids in the country, according to the young solon, are malnourished. He says that the current program in public schools is only implemented for a limited amount of time, and as such, the intervention is not sufficient to sustain the aim of providing free healthy meals to poor beneficiaries. He believes that if the government were to provide meals for all students, this would also benefit families. “If a mom of three kids spends Php20 [for a serving of breakfast per kid], that’s Php60 saved per day. So in a way, that’s kind of an aid to families,” he explains.
The feeding also impacts the academic performance of students. Many students have difficulty studying because they cannot concentrate when they are hungry. Dy adds that a sustainable feeding program would help the Philippines produce students who can compete academically with students from other nations.”They have a hard time learning because they are hungry; they cannot focus.” He says that this is a big concern that should be given attention by Congress, more so in light of Filipino students’ poor performance in international standards examinations.
AN EYE FOR CRITICAL LEGISLATION
Despite his young age, Dy has proven that he has an eye for critical pieces of legislation needed to address various issues beyond the barangay level.
Dy is currently the chair of the House Committee on Bases Conversion. He is a principal author of HB 8505, which seeks to extend the life of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) by 50 years. This will allow the agency to continue its mandate of creating economic opportunities for the country through integrated development projects and vibrant business centers, and helping strengthen the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through revenue allotments. The bill will also allow the BCDA to sell or dispose of some of its real property to provide housing for its employees. Through the years, the office has partnered with the private sector to give birth to major economic districts, such as the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone in Pampanga; John Hay Special Economic Zone in Baguio; Poro Point Freeport Zone in La Union; Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Subic; and Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.
Dy is also bent on helping the tourism sector, which he says is another important contributor to the national economy, chipping in 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) during the pre-pandemic period. As the vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, he was tasked with defending the budget of the Department of Tourism (DOT) during the House budget deliberations. According to him, there are many more tourist attractions in the Philippines besides Boracay and Palawan, so more money should be set aside for the development and maintenance of amenities and infrastructure that will promote travel to the country. “We are lagging behind other Southeast Asian countries in tourist arrivals. We have so much to offer in the country. We just need to improve our facilities,” Dy states. He laments the difficulty in defending the increase in the DOT budget allocation, even as he cites a report that the return on investment (ROI) for every peso spent can be as much as 56,000 percent. “The sector [has] contributed so much to our national economy compared to other countries in the region that invest so much in their tourism industry. I think this is one key sector that we should invest in a lot because there will be bigger returns,” he asserts.
Sustainable resource management is another of Dy’s advocacies. In line with this, he introduced HB 1214, or the proposed Sierra Madre Conservation and Development Authority Act. This is an urgent bill that aims to establish a government agency that “will take the lead in the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive long-term plan, designed to conserve and protect the resources within the Sierra Madre region within the framework of sustainable development.” Dy believes that given the vastness of the area, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has limited capacity to safeguard the mountain range. The authority will fill this gap by “uniting and coordinating the efforts of various local government units (LGUs) and [national] government agencies,” including the DENR. The 540-kilometer long Sierra Madre is the longest mountain range in the Philippines, with Isabela in its northern portion.
Isabela is an agricultural province located in a typhoon-prone region. Farmers in the province endure so much damage from typhoons that they must borrow money to recover and replant after their crops are destroyed. To help them, the lawmaker’s father, Vice Governor Faustino “Bojie” Dy III, enrolled majority of them in crop insurance. To further help farmers in Isabela and elsewhere, Dy filed HB 1213, which aims to strengthen the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC). Among its major provisions are increasing PCIC’s financial capacity to provide a more comprehensive insurance coverage for palay (unhusked rice) and corn crops; livestock and fisheries; and agroforestry crops. This piece of legislation has been approved by the House and transmitted to the Senate.
Meanwhile, Dy also filed HB 1216, which proposes the establishment of the Philippine Corn Research Institute (PhilCorn) in Isabela. This institute is envisioned to help modernize corn farming practices and expected to help farmers increase their corn yield, which will ultimately benefit the nation. Isabela is the largest supplier of corn feed in the country.
So far, a total of six bills have been enacted from among the over 180 bills authored and co-authored by Congressman Dy. He is hopeful that some of the legislation he has introduced will be enacted into law during this Congress, if not this year.
CONTINUOUS LEARNING AND SERVICE
Dy is serving his second term as representative of Isabela’s 6th District. He reveals that he felt frustrated during his first term because the bills and advocacies which he fought so hard for were not enacted into law. “Sometimes you work so hard, even for two years, for a bill, but it still doesn’t get enacted into law. Sometimes it’s frustrating, for it has been your advocacy; you really push for certain things, but yet there are other factors [that come into play]. It is not easy,” Dy reveals.
The young solon’s first term was a valuable learning experience, nonetheless. He values how seasoned legislators guided him. “I guess the best thing to do is to learn from the people around you who’ve been there for some time. They’re very good at what they do,” Dy shares with admiration. He admits that he was initially intimidated by veteran legislators, but he eventually learned that they are all extremely helpful, particularly in sharing their experiences and knowledge of how things work. “You learn a lot from them, especially during committee hearings, through how they speak, deliver their speeches, and interpellate.” Dy hopes to become a mentor for young lawmakers in the future as well.
For now, Dy is not looking beyond the Lower House with regard to his political future. He says that the citizens of Isabela’s 6th District are his top priority at the moment. Being a congressman now enables him to solve the problems of his constituents while at the same time having the chance to craft laws at the national level.
The Dys are a prominent political family in Isabela, although none of them has yet attempted to run for national office.
The congressman’s wife, Sheena TanDy, is the mayor of the municipality of Santiago and formerly represented the 4th District of Isabela in Congress. It was during their first terms as lawmakers that their relationship as a couple began. Dy’s father, “Bojie” Dy, is a former governor and currently the vice governor of the province. A number of his relatives, such as his grandfather and uncles, have held the positions of governor, vice governor, mayor, and councilor.
Negative perceptions regarding family members that have successively held elective posts in local governments for a number of years don’t concern Dy. He sees it as a challenge and a reason to put in more effort to outperform what his ancestors have accomplished. “You just use that as a way to keep yourself higher. You need to surpass what they did.” This, he says, comes hand in hand with upholding the family reputation. “If anyone messes up, it will tarnish the whole family. You must also uphold the highest standards [of conduct and service] possible because everything you do has an impact on the family,” he quips.
Dy’s parents did not foresee him entering politics, particularly when he was studying International Business in the United States. However, it was while he took up his Masters in Political Economy at the University of Sydney that his will to serve and bring about change was born. After learning about how governments function, his interest was piqued by the possibility of Filipinos trying some things being done in other countries. “Other nations do certain things this way; why can’t we? I told myself that I wanted to be part of government service [and introduce new ways of looking at and doing things],” he says.
For Dy, the transition from private to public life has been challenging. Given that he and his wife have a one-year-old child, balancing their time between family and their constituents is a major challenge, more so since both of them are diligent workers who strive for excellence in whatever they do. However, time management has enabled them to make time for their son. For his part, he strives to be at home when his son is awake, and typically holds district activities and meetings when his son is sleeping. “Sometimes, I feel that my time with my family and my wife is not enough. That’s the tough part of our job. You’re in the public’s eye all the time, so it’s a 24/7 job. There’s no flexibility,” he says.
Still, Dy claims that despite all the obstacles he has had to face as an elected official and a father, he has never had any regrets about choosing to become a public servant. He looks back at his vision of helping bring about better governance, and the support and confidence his constituents have given him. These are what keep him going. “I have to keep working for my vision; keep working for my constituents,” he concludes.