Emerging From Crisis With A Mission
BY RAGIE MAE TANO-ARELLANO
THE PANDEMIC BROUGHT ABOUT MANY SAD STORIES, BUT IT HAS STIRRED THE
HEART OF SAN JUAN COUNCILOR LORENZO FRANCISCO TAÑADA-YAM TO SERVE HIS CONSTITUENTS.
Councilor Lorenzo Francisco Tañada-Yam’s job as a consultant to Mayor Francis Zamora during the COVID-19 pandemic deepened his care for the residents of San Juan City. It led him to witness the struggles of the people. For two years, he worked in the mayor’s office, seeing the people who need help with their health, work, unstable financial situations, and more. This experience, the councilor says, opened opportunities for him to consider entering public service himself.
“I realized that I can do more. I can make a change in their lives, especially during these trying times,” Tañada-Yam explains. When the opportunity came to him to run under the mayor’s party, he immediately grabbed it. “From being a consultant, I was able to help this much, and in this role, through effective legislation, I can make bigger changes.”
RUNS IN THE BLOOD
The 23-year-old councilor is no stranger to politics. He comes from a family of public servants. He is the great-grandson of the longest-serving senator in the country, the late Senator Lorenzo Tañada who served the Philippines for 24 consecutive years. His father also served at the barangay level and tried to run for councilor in the city of San Juan, but never won.
With this background, Tañada-Yam knew that entering public service is one way to make widespread, institutional changes.
“It would inspire me when I would hear stories about my great-grandfather being the longest-serving senator in Philippine history. All the things he would do, all the stories I would hear, and witnessing it firsthand through my father, who served at the local level as barangay chairman,” shares Tañada- Yam.
It’s the decisions that you make and the things that you do that really make an impact on people’s lives, whatever you do and whatever position you hold. Your service makes an impact on people’s lives. That’s what I believe.
Tañada-Yam’s interest in politics started when he was a young student leader. He was a batch representative and member of the student council when he was in grade school, up until high school when he became the president of the student government. He was also the batch president of the College of Business at De La Salle University (DLSU) and the vice president of the whole batch. After college, he worked as a political affairs intern in the office of Senator Francisco “Kiko” Pangilinan.
These experiences, according to the councilor, not only developed his character but fueled his passion to make an impact on people’s lives in whatever he does or in any position. One example was when he became part of the DLSU student council and they represented the student body in the consultation about the tuition fee hike. Tañada-Yam shares that the experience made him realize the weight of his position as a student representative because it directly affects his fellow students’ lives, even their family’s lives.
“It’s the decisions that you make and the things that you do that really make a difference, whatever you do and whatever position you hold. Your service makes an impact on people’s lives. That’s what I believe,” explains Tañada-Yam.
THE REAL WORLD
There’s a big difference, however, between leading student councils and being part of a city council. Tañada-Yam has not yet reached a year in his stint as councilor. Although he was exposed to politics at an early age, he admits that he is not an expert who knows everything, and still needs opinions and wisdom from industry experts and veteran politicians.
He describes his brand of leadership as consultative, which has been his style since his student council days. Tañada- Yam explains that he surrounds himself with smart, knowledgeable people especially if there’s a specific expertise needed: “I am the one who decides in the end. I learn by consulting with them, and I incorporate everyone’s decision into one solid solution.”
He said that the pandemic’s traces are still evident, especially because there are still a lot of people who struggle to find jobs and are still feeling the pang.
“For me, it’s about listening to what their needs are. Being the chairman of Ways and Means [Committee], I see firsthand all these business owners having a hard time paying outstanding balances during the pandemic because they were not able to reach targets or they have no income at all,” says Tañada- Yam.
As much as he would want to help, however, his office can only do so much for the business owners. They helped coordinate with the legal and licensing offices to see what they can do for the business owners, especially with their outstanding taxes. But the limits of his position do not frustrate the young councilor, for he knows that his power is bound by the law which must be followed by everybody even, and especially, public servants such as himself.
“Whatever compromises or concessions that we can make with these business owners, we will do it legally,” he stresses. He is not afraid to be honest with his constituents if he cannot provide remedies to their problems.
Even if councilors do not implement projects, but rather create or craft legislation, Tañada-Yam shares that if there are projects that need their action, it is not done by one councilor alone but through collaborative efforts with other members of the city council. This year, however, he will focus on the scholarship program. Aside from the help of the national government, he will expand this program by looking for some kindhearted people and different companies to help in the education of some less privileged citizens of San Juan.
Aside from scholarships, he is also working on adding more streetlights because certain areas are very dark. The councilor shares that when they were delivering goods during the pandemic, they were stumbling up an alley while walking to reach the houses. In order to install lights on roads and alleyways without access to light posts, Tañada-Yam is currently negotiating a partnership with a solar-powered lighting company and conducting feasibility studies on where to install solar lights in different barangays in San Juan.
Along with cheaper electricity rates, Tañada-Yam thinks solar lights are more practical since they require less maintenance, are safer, and are in line with the city’s thrust of promoting renewable energy sources. By adding solar lights, the residents’ safety will also be improved. He adds that certain lights would be given away, while other lights would also be bought by the local administration. In addition to the 11 barangays in his district, he also wants to support 10 other barangays in the first district.
BEING YOUNG IS NEVER AN EXCUSE TO HELP
Tañada-Yam is the youngest of the 12 council members to be elected in San Juan’s history as well as in the 2022 elections. The 24-year-old councilor, who was 23 when he was elected, says, “That’s the accomplishment I’m proud of.”
I didn’t find any difficulties [expressing] my thoughts, sharing with them my ideas. They also give me their feedback, which I am very much open to also.
His age, according to him, is never an issue for the other councilors because the more senior ones recognize and accept the fact that he has a unique perspective on how service is carried out and how he approaches matters in the council. But Tañada-Yam humbly recognizes their breadth of experience and willingly learns from them, knowing that it’s a chance to further educate himself and connect with his fellow public servants.
He is especially fortunate because everyone on the council, including the mayor, vice mayor, and all councilors, are members of the same party, Team Makabagong San Juan. He never feels like a newbie since the other council members view him as an equal, and the fact that he was chosen to chair two important committees—Ways and Means; and Urban Planning, Housing, and Zoning—is enough proof of this.
Tañada-Yam emphasizes that being young should never be an excuse not to help, saying, “I didn’t find any difficulties [expressing] my thoughts, sharing with them my ideas. They also give me their feedback, which I am very much open to also.”
The young councilor claims that his desire to help his constituents drives him to get out of bed every morning since it allows him to learn more about himself, his community, and local and national issues. “You understand their needs. Every day is a learning experience for me,” concludes Tañada-Yam.