top of page


Mayor Aleli-3



What drove Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte to public service was a burning aspiration to reform government and improve its performance.

A progressive leader who chooses a path away from traditional politics—that’s how Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte wants to be known.

She insists that she entered politics not for wealth, power, or prestige, and what drove her was a burning aspiration to reform government and improve its performance.

“I have been described as forward-thinking,” she tells LEAGUE Magazine. “I am a crusader and a change-maker, and in this regard, I can say I am an idealist in a world of pragmatists. My vision is to strengthen institutions and standardize internal processes, protocols, and procedure for the purpose of maximizing the city’s resources in the delivery of basic services to our people, as well as to ease out corruption.”

Belmonte has been serving Quezon City for 12 years now. She was previously the city’s vice mayor for three consecutive terms before vying for its highest office in 2019. On top of her agenda then were women’s rights, gender equality, enhancing social services particularly for the marginalized and migrating all government transactions online to eliminate face-to-face interaction that can lead to anomalous behavior. Belmonte says this ensures proper and honest collection of taxes.

She also focused on decentralizing governance through the establishment of satellite action offices in all districts to enable her government to attend to the essential needs of their constituents efficiently, responsively and more conveniently. Belmonte also included the renovation and modernization of Quezon City’s health centers to ensure the digitalization of medical records, that medicine supply is immediately replenished and that each location will have one doctor.

The city’s 11th mayor also imposed zero tolerance for corruption in the city by “ensuring that every peso is well-spent on projects that are meaningful, sustainable, and effective.” This resulted to the local government earning an “unqualified opinion” from the Commission on Audit (COA) for its annual audit report for 2020—a first in Quezon City’s history. It is the highest audit opinion that COA can render to a government agency, including a local government unit (LGU).

Belmonte considers the audit opinion as a testament to the realization of her vision for good governance that has been internalized by the city’s leaders. “This is the most important recognition that a local government unit like us can get,” she avers. “This is the validation of our efforts for good governance in Quezon City, and this is also a welcome surprise since we received this in our first term.”

Belmonte has been serving Quezon City for 12 years now. She was previously the city’s vice mayor for three consecutive terms before vying for its highest office in 2019.

Introducing and sustaining reforms in government is one of the many challenges the mayor has had to hurdle. She continues to believe that many things detrimental to progress and development have been institutionalized, such as corruption and a culture of mediocrity. “There is a need to restore the people’s faith, trust, and confidence in government,” she maintains. “People are cynical and many view government very negatively, and there can be no real ‘good governance’ if the people and government do not enhance their working relationship through a more mature participatory environment, which promotes real transparency, and better accountability.”

This is one reason Belmonte believes she was elected to office. “A wise man once told me that we all must strive to live a life of meaning, and I believe that a commitment to good governance as the means through which we can ensure better service delivery to our people is the reason. I have been entrusted this role,” she continues.


Maria Josefina Tanya “Joy” Go Belmonte is the youngest child and only daughter of former Quezon City Mayor Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. and journalist Betty Go-Belmonte. Her father also served as the Speaker of the House under the Aquino presidency, while her late mother is one of the founders of The Philippine Daily Inquirer and The Philippine Star.

She says her parents are two of the many people who inspired her to become a public servant. “My mother was especially influential to me because she embodied all the traits of a great woman leader,” Belmonte maintains. “She was fearless but compassionate. She was an activist until her last breath; she always wanted to make the world a better place for others and worked hard to do so even if the effort seemed futile, and she did so for the most part through the power of the pen. The status quo was never good enough. She was idealistic, God-fearing, engaged, extremely principled, selfless, and a moral compass to all who knew her.”

After obtaining her social sciences degree from the Ateneo de Manila University, Belmonte joined the Jesuit Volunteers Philippines and became a high school teacher in Kadingilan, Bukidnon. “It was my experience as a volunteer teacher in a farflung and underdeveloped community that opened my eyes to the sad reality of life in the Philippines, most especially to the flawed socio-economic and political structures in our society that are designed to concentrate power, status, and wealth in the hands of a few, and make it almost impossible for those born in uncomfortable circumstances to rise above these conditions,” she recalls.

She then worked at Caritas Manila’s Communications Department for six months and joined the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) after. “My stint here prepared me for eventual postgraduate studies abroad,” says the mayor. Belmonte then moved to the United Kingdom to train to become an archaeologist. She has two master’s degrees, one in Museum Studies from the University of Leicester and one in Archaeology from the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. She specialized in Southeast Asian archaeology and travelled extensively in the region.

Belmonte continued her humanitarian work and sat on the boards of several non-government and non-profit organizations, while lecturing at the University of the Philippines (UP) Archaeological Studies Program and joining expeditions to archaeological sites.

“I believe our biggest concern is the imminent need to raise the standard of living of every QCitizen by providing them with a more dignified life. This means focusing our attention on providing our people with safety and security in terms of housing, improving the standard of education to include not just improvements in competencies, but also an emphasis on developing critical thinking.”

“It was while I was working on an archaeological site in Manila that I first entertained the idea of running for public office,” she recalls. “I had an appointment at city hall to meet the mayor so I could explain our work to him, and how it could benefit his city in terms of tourism. After waiting for several hours, I found out he had already left. I then told myself, if I really wanted to draw attention to an advocacy I truly believed in, it would be best if I were to hold a decision-making position myself.”

When her father’s third term as mayor ended, she decided to give politics a shot. She became vice mayor in 2010 and considers three projects as among her biggest achievements: the physical transfer of the Quezon Heritage House from Gilmore to the Quezon Memorial Circle (thus saving it from demolition); the establishment of the Quezon City Experience Museum (QCX), and the founding of QCinema or the Quezon City International Film Festival—which is already on its 10th year.

It was during one of her terms as vice mayor when she “trended on social media as the most hated person in the Philippines.” As acting mayor, Belmonte “refused to suspend school over a forecast of ‘light to moderate rains with occasional thunderstorms.’” She and Makati Mayor Abby Binay were the only city heads who decided to do so. “I got bashed overwhelmingly. And I trended very negatively.”

Belmonte issued an apology and took ownership. In a social media post, she said “I welcome all the hate and vileness of your messages. I truly deserve it.” She went on to explain that her team relied on the weather forecast, adding that “sometimes we in government depend too much on data and statistics and not enough on gut feel.” She acknowledged her shortcomings in the situation and added that it was “time to step up” for her constituents.


Belmonte, who is running for reelection this year, says that she still has a lot to do in Quezon City. “I believe our biggest concern is the imminent need to raise the standard of living of every QCitizen by providing them with a more dignified life,” she explains. “This means focusing our attention on providing our people with safety and security in terms of housing, improving the standard of education to include not just improvements in competencies, but also an emphasis on developing critical thinking.

“This is over and above the physical and infrastructural needs of our learners such as facilities, gadgets, and connectivity. We also need to provide more opportunities for employment and livelihood for all those who desire to earn an income, whatever their status and circumstances in life are. Finally, access to healthcare remains an area of concern, as well as improvements in health-seeking behavior. All these require additional infrastructure, manpower and improved operational systems.” She also includes climate change, environmental protection, public order and safety, as well as enhancing investor confidence in her priority list.

“The people must be convinced that we are here to protect them and promote their welfare above all,” she stresses. “I believe that the foundation of effective, efficient and responsive service delivery still lies in the proper management of the city’s resources, shifting paradigms from whimsical decision-making to datadriven decision-making, motivating our personnel to adopt a framework of excellence and merit, and most of all, enhancing the trust and confidence of the people in government, so together we can actively participate in the work of city-building.”

Belmonte considers some accomplishments as the closest to her heart. These include the Quezon City Protection Center for Victim-Survivors of Gender- Based Violence and Abuse and the Bahay Kanlungan temporary shelter—a one-stop-shop for women, children, and members of the LGCBTQIA+ who need medical, legal, protective, and social services. With Grow QC, Belmonte introduced urban farming to promote food security, encourage healthy diet, and enhance livelihood. “I am proud of this project because during the pandemic, our urban farms were instrumental in providing nutritious meals to thousands of our neediest constituents,” she says.

With No Woman Left Behind, Belmonte provides holistic support to Women Deprived of Liberty (WDL) at the Camp Karingal correctional facility. They are given health services, livelihood opportunities, and a chance to finish secondary and tertiary education through partnerships with the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Quezon City University. The Kabahagi Center for Children with Disabilities provides free services for indigent Children with Disabilities (CWD), including diagnostic services, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy, among others, in partnership with specialists from various universities and organizations. It also provides training on how to care for these children and provides livelihood opportunities to the parents of CWDs.

Belmonte also established the “Made in QC” program to assist and support micro and small business owners from Quezon City who make unique and high-quality artisanal products. These products are featured in a five-volume book collection that is given away to corporations, the diplomatic corps, and the political elite, among others, to provide them with options for gifts, especially during the holiday season.

Other notable accomplishments for the mayor include the Cash to Trashback program that makes “caring for the environment economically rewarding” for people who trade in recyclable wastes for points that can be used to pay for groceries and pay their electric bills through a memorandum of agreement with Meralco; the Animal Welfare and Adoption Center that rehabilitates rescued dogs for adoption, and trains these to become emotional support companions for mental health patients or to assist in police work; and the QCity Bus, a free bus service modeled after those in the cities of Boston and Seattle in the United States. “While it started as part of our pandemic response to help frontliners get around, we have decided to retain it as a permanent feature of our city to help our workers and employees save on public transport fares. The route doesn’t overlap with any route of the LTFRB so as not to negatively affect the earnings of franchised transport.

Belmonte says that the 14-point agenda she introduced in 2019 when she first ran for mayor will continue to guide her plans for Quezon City. The agenda focuses on human and social services, economic development, environment, and climate change, building a livable, green, and sustainable city, infrastructure, and institutional development.

She has some big-ticket projects identified, including the rehabilitation of the Amoranto Sports Complex into an international standard sports facility, rehabilitation of the Quezon Memorial Circle after the MRT 7 construction, and establishment of three additional campuses of the Quezon City University, among others.

“You will continue to feel your taxes working productively for you, this time in a non-pandemic situation,” Belmonte insists. “I ask our constituents to trust in their government, cooperate with us in exposing all irregularities and anomalies, and help us to build the epitome of clean and honest public service in our beloved Quezon City.”

She has no plans to run for higher office and describes her role as “the kind of job that you either love or you hate,” adding, “I love the feeling I get when I’ve made a positive difference in the life of a person or a community. I hate the dirt that comes with politics. Fortunately, the psychological rewards of genuine public service far outweigh my disdain for the gutter politics I need to swallow when running for office. The most difficult aspect of being a public servant is having to put my family second or even third in the hierarchy of priorities.”

“I also consider myself a servant leader,” she shares, and adds that author Simon Sinek describes her leadership style in these words from his book Leaders Eat Last: “The true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of the leadership privilege comes at the expense of selfinterest.”

Belmonte is driven to be a leader whose actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, she says. “In other words, for me, leadership must be empowering and transformative.”

bottom of page