Palawan, Vigan Leaders Receive Gawad Jesse M. Robredo
BY EDWIN ALLAN DIAZ
The Jesse M. Robredo Foundation (JMRF) bestowed the Gawad Jesse M. Robredo on Brooke’s Point, Palawan Vice Mayor Mary Jean Feliciano and former Vigan, Ilocos Sur Mayor Juan Carlo Medina at The Bayleaf Intramuros last September 5, 2023.
JMRF recognized Feliciano and Medina for 2019 and 2023, respectively, citing their “effective, transparent, and ethical leadership.”
The award is given to mayors who embody the late Robredo’s brand of leadership: matino, mahusay, at may puso (sensible, efficient, and with heart).” Robredo served as Naga City mayor for 19 years before helming the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in 2010.
The search for outstanding local chief executives is in collaboration with the De La Salle University-Jesse M. Robredo Institute for Governance (DLSU-JRIG). It was scheduled for 2019 before COVID-19 put the award ceremony on pause.
“We honor these officials who have demonstrated unwavering commitment to the principles of integrity, competence, and empathy in local governance,” said DLSUJRIG Director Dr. Ador Torneo in his video message.
HUMBLED AND HONORED
Feliciano was Brooke’s Point mayor from 2013 to 2022, and stood against Ipilan Nickel Corporation (INC) during her second term. She issued and enforced cease-and-desist, closure, and demolition orders against INC for clearing forests in the Mount Mantalingahan Protected Landscape in 2018.
INC responded by filing six administrative cases against Feliciano at the Office of the Ombudsman in 2021. They claimed to have the necessary permits and were cutting trees legally in the watershed.
The Ombudsman initially found Feliciano “guilty of oppression or grave abuse of authority” and suspended her without pay for a year in 2021. The suspension order was eventually reversed and all administrative and criminal charges dropped.
Feliciano won as vice mayor in 2022, making her the presiding officer of the municipal council. As such, she can ensure the integrity and strict implementation of Brooke’s Pont’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) and zoning ordinance, which leave no space for mining.
In an interview with LEAGUE, Feliciano said she was humbled and overwhelmed with the distinction because it is a special honor to be considered like the late Nagueño leader.
“This award is special because it’s personal. It’s the first ever Gawad given, and I feel like I’m part of history, being the first mayor in the Philippines to be awarded such. It’s a milestone for me and my family. All the disappointments, heartaches, and bashing that I received did not come to naught.”
Under Feliciano, Brooke’s Point landed the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) Hall of Fame, winning the award thrice. Most of her projects revolved around health, ecotourism, and infrastructure.
Feliciano bested three others for the inaugural award: incumbent Balete, Aklan Mayor Dexter Calizo, and nonincumbent mayors Rexlon Gatchalian of Valenzuela City and Melchor Mergal of Salcedo, Eastern Samar.
EMULATING AN ICON
For his part, Medina did not expect to be nominated, much less win the award. Nevertheless, he was grateful for the people who made his victory possible.
“I would like to thank all the people that I worked with. They are the reason why we are here today and how we were able to do everything for the City of Vigan,” Medina said in his video speech.
Three people served as Medina’s role models for public service: his parents Ferdie and Eva, who inspired him to treat people right and work with integrity, and Robredo.
Medina admired the former DILG secretary so much even though he did not know Robredo on a personal level. He brought all his department heads to Naga, where they learned about the city government’s best practices and the projects left behind by Robredo.
“It was so inspiring. I really tried copying and emulating Secretary Jesse’s works in our city. I hope I was able to inspire my peers to work just like him,” Medina said. This includes Robredo’s “tsinelas” leadership, walking down the streets of Vigan in shorts and slippers to check on his projects and talk to locals. He actively involved everyone to participate in the community and was always ready to face his constituents.
From 2016 to 2022, Medina improved Vigan’s educational system, persons with disability (PWD) access, and gender inclusivity. He also introduced a data-gathering system that determines which projects or programs require higher priority.
Incumbent mayors Ma. Regis “Vico” Sotto of Pasig City, Cristina “Tin” Antonio of Alcala, Cagayan, and Marcelino “Marcy” Teodoro of Marikina City were also nominated for 2023.
JMRF accepted nominations for the 2023 edition from November 2022 to January 2023. Final deliberations, including individual interviews and final screening, took place last September.
The selection committee used the following criteria: “transparency and accountability; integrity and ethical public service; clear outcomes and impact; ability to overcome adversity; innovation; and engagement and empowerment.”
Robredo’s wife, former Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo, shared with LEAGUE the importance of Gawad JMR.
“The main intention of the award is to shine a light on more sensible and efficient local officials. There are plenty of capable leaders that don’t get the spotlight because they are either simple or do not want it trained on themselves.”
Robredo added, “I hope everyone joins hands in ensuring we elect officials not because they have money or power. I hope we also give ordinary citizens, who may not have the resources but have shown effective, ethical, and empowering leadership, a chance. I believe that when people get a taste of that kind of leadership, people will always choose it.”