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From gracing the silverscreen to commanding city hall,
Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez is finding his place in the
limelight and pulling the sleepy city out from economic slumber.




There was a time, not too long ago, when the name Richard Icasiano Gomez was synonymous to good acting and excellence in sports. In the past five years, the name is now often mentioned in the same breath as good local governance.

Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez still exudes the aura of a celebrity and still has the heart of an athlete. But talking to him makes one realize that the erstwhile matinee idol and national athlete has fully transformed into a true public servant.


Gomez had his first taste of public service in 1998 when he was appointed by President Joseph Estrada as Presidential Adviser on Youth and Sports Development. “I saw that if you really wanted to help people, it would be best to have a government position because then you have all the resources at hand for your programs,” begins the passionate public servant. One of his first i nitiatives was launching the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga (MAD), which became an effective and successful anti-drugs program for the youth.

Acknowledging the greater potential to help more people, Gomez jumped right into the thick of the Congressional election in 2001 and ran under the partylist system as a nominee of Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga (MAD) Partylist. “We were number one. However, we were not allowed to take a seat because, at that time, it was contested that we did not belong to the marginalized sector. We said that when it comes to drugs, there is no such thing as marginalized, there’s no rich or poor. Everybody is affected by the problem of drugs. We were disqualified by the Supreme Court, only to find out later that, true enough, you don’t need to be a marginalized sector to be in a party-list system,” Gomez explains.

Despite these initial setbacks, Gomez’s spirits were not dampened. In fact, these hurdles only made him more committed to pursue his calling in local governance. “I felt bad because of what happened. Sabi ko I should pursue my dream of helping people, of doing programs for them. So sabi ko baka pwede nang political capital ‘yong pagiging artista ko. So, I ran for the Senate but sadly, I landed at number 24,” says Gomez, who ran as an independent candidate.


The year 2010 proved to be a turning point for Gomez and wife Lucy TorresGomez. Still optimistic despite the initial setback, Gomez again tried to land a Congressional seat, this time as representative of Ormoc. By then, the couple already had a clear vision for the city.

“Well, this is the hometown of Lucy and we know for a fact that one day, when we both grow old, we will be moving back to Ormoc. Nakita namin ‘yong political situation at that time. Walang nangyayari (Nothing was happening)’s just a drug-laden city. The crime rate was high and the programs were not organized. So that was where the vision began. If in our own capacity we did not do anything, nothing will happen to Ormoc.” The stagnation needed to be reversed,

Gomez insists. And he believed that he was the only one who could lead and get Ormoc moving again.

Gomez’s political opponents, however, succeeded in having him disqualified for non-residency this time around. With the turn of events, Richard’s spouse, Lucy, was thrust into the political limelight as his substitute candidate.

Not one to sulk because of his foiled congressional bid, Gomez played an important role in his wife’s first stint as congresswoman, serving as her chief of staff. In this capacity, he gained first-hand experience that prepared him for local governance. “I saw the challenges that local governments faced. This experience molded me to become an effective mayor.”


The dream of the erstwhile showbiz couple working together as a public service power duo was finally realized in 2016, with Gomez clinching the mayoralty and Torres-Gomez winning a fresh congressional term.

“When I became mayor, para naming ni-reboot ‘yong buong system ng city hall. Actually malakas ‘yong resistance noong nakita nila ‘yong manner ng pagtatrabaho ko (we were met with resistance when they saw how I worked), ” the mayor reveals.

“Pinupuntahan ko sila, pinupukpok ko sila. (I went to them and made sure that they’re doing their jobs.) Sabi ko, ‘You know, working with the government is a choice. Pinili mong magtrabaho sa gobyerno (You chose to work in the government). Therefore, you have to serve the people.’ So every time I talk after the flag ceremony, I always encourage them. I always say, ‘Serve our people well.’ I regularly remind them that we are doing this not just for ourselves but for the people,” he says emphatically.

Gomez urges his people to be proactive as he is a firm believer in participative governance. “I work with different people, groups, organizations. I call on them to help me in running the city. It’s always nice to work with different people so that you’ll have new ideas, especially the new generation’s ideas,” he says. He also points out that program implementation has never been smoother, and programs are more effective in general if one is able to understand the situations and take command of the responses.

The mayor’s being approachable belies his strictness in implementing rules. “I always lead by example.” Even the minor infringements, he does not dare cross. “For example, when it comes to traffic, kapag sinabi na, ‘One Way, No Entry,’ kahit mayor ako, kahit nagmamadali ako, one way talaga ‘yan. Hindi pwedeng pumasok (If it says ‘One Way, No Entry,’ even if I’m the mayor and I’m rushing, it’s a one-way street. No one can enter). This, everyone in the city knows by heart,” he says matter-of-factly.

Gomez also has a very good working relationship with the city council. He has inspired them to go beyond their legislative duties to help him in executive matters. “Whatever committee they’re in, they’re active. They understand that whatever resolution or ordinance they implement, all the problems will still go through them. So this helps them make sure that the job is done well right off the bat. I tell them, ‘You have to help me.’ Kaya ngayon, when it comes to health, sports, culture, even traffic management, they’re very active,” the mayor says. This approach of collaboration and accountability has proven vital in Gomez’s effective leadership. He explains, “It lessens the burden on the mayor. The mayor doesn’t need to carry the weight of solving all the problems. We can work together and find solutions. Tulong-tulong kami dito (We help each other out).”


Just as Gomez has implemented political and administrative reforms, so has he given attention to culture, sports, education, and economics. When he became the city’s top leader in 2016, Gomez turned the old city hall—a post-World War II building that had fallen to neglect—into a museum, showcasing the city’s history and culture. One section features World War II artifacts and an audio-visual corner that features documentaries about the city’s history. Another section is dedicated to the works of contemporary Ormocanon artists.

The city government also conducted cultural mapping so that, as the mayor says, “Ormocanons will understand our own culture, our heritage, where we come from, and why we are like this as a people.” Important additions to the education curriculum, the Ormoc hymn, and various cultural programs are among the important products that have resulted from this cultural mapping initiative. With his background as an athlete, Gomez knew that sports was a good way to get Ormocanons, especially the young ones, involved in the city government’s activities. Putting his wide network to good use, he was able to get the services of national coaches—among them former Olympians—to train young athletes.

“When I first implemented that sports program, coming from zero in the regional games, we came in second place. Then, we won twice as overall champion.

We were able to produce national players and won two gold medals at the modern pentathlon in the recent Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games).”

The mayor, who also puts a premium on education, recently earned a doctorate in Public Administration from the Cebu Technological University.

“I work closely with the DepEd, and they seem happy with our current programs,” he reveals. “I told them, ‘You really have to push and promote your program because the city has a budget they can utilize.’ All the people who ask for support for their programs—whether education-related or not—I hardly refuse. It’s important to support these initiatives because if you see that they’re excited, you know that they’re very motivated and will deliver good results.”

With regards to business, the city government has taken advantage of modern technology to speed up business permit processing as well as to automate payments and other transactions. Currently, Ormoc is in the process of earning a citation from the Office of the Ombudsman for being a business-friendly city. With this, the city is setting itself up to become an ideal place for major investments.

The entry of various businesses has meant improved employment opportunities for Ormocanons. The strategy is quite simple: in exchange for hassle-free business transactions, investors are encouraged to source at least 70% of their workforce from Ormoc. “We make business easy for them, while providing opportunities for our people,” Gomez says.


Gomez’s involvement in local government matters is not limited to Ormoc. His election as League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) Public Relations Officer has given him the chance to learn from other city mayors and to share Ormoc City government’s best practices.

“The nice thing about the LCP is that it encourages LGUs to benchmark, to share their best practices to the other LGUs. You see, local government officials have to attend to so many things and it really helps to have access to information about other LGUs’ effective programs that you can replicate. You adapt and just tweak certain aspects depending on your situation. And everything becomes easy.”

Numerous local government officials have gone to Ormoc for benchmarking activities. Of particular interest to them is the city’s financial and disaster risk reduction and management programs. With Gomez’s successful programs, other Eastern Visayas leaders have also taken notice, nominating him to head the regional development council and the regional peace and order council. Ever practical, the mayor has begged off, preferring to concentrate on running the city instead for a simple reason: “I am more productive here,” he says.

Gomez’s proactive leadership was also highlighted last year during the early months of the pandemic. Ormoc remained COVID-19 free considerably longer than other areas, thanks to the early implementation of a lockdown and strict health protocols. The mayor also remained vigilant even when the national government relaxed restrictions, knowing that keeping their guard down could put his constituents at risk.


Just half a decade after Gomez was given the chance to serve the people of Ormoc as mayor, his transformation from an outsider who married an Ormocanon to a true Ormocanon-atheart, and from a celebrity to a public servant, is clearly complete. Ormoc City has also been transformed from a sleepy suburb to a modern model city.

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