THE VICO EFFECT
The “Vico Effect” can be felt all over Pasig City as the mayor implements major changes in his first 100 days in office.
BY LAKAMBINI BAUTISTA
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAR CONCENGCO
As we traverse the streets of Pasig going to the city hall, this writer was expecting tarpaulins and
banners bearing the name and handsome face of current city mayor Vico Sotto to turn up along the way. In the local political landscape, it’s a norm for those in position to assert their dominance over their “territory.” But there was clearly none in sight. Even as we enter the city hall and the mayor’s office, we hardly see his photo or name. In one of the rooms where we are received, there is a cabinet where some of his recognitions are discreetly tucked, but that’s about it. That’s when this writer is reminded, showing off is not Mayor Vico’s brand of politics. He doesn’t like fanfare. He doesn’t subscribe to traditional politics, and he had made this clear since Day 1.
“I decided to challenge [traditional politics] because I am not afraid to lose,” he recalls his decision to run for councilor in 2016. “Para sa akin, posisyon ’yan, maganda kung makuha ko pero hindi diyan nagtatapos ang buhay ko. (For me, it’s a position, it’s great if I get it, but my life doesn’t end there.) I’m here because I wanted to introduce a different style of politics. Kumbaga manalo o matalo, ang importante sa akin (Win or lose, what’s important is), I did things that I believe are right. And thankfully, there are a lot of people who believe in what I want to do.”
His first bid for a Sangguniang Panlungsod seat bore good results—the neophyte politician topped the polls even if he lacked the political machinery and ran as an independent candidate. One of his landmark accomplishments as a single term-councilor was pushing for the Pasig Transparency Mechanism Ordinance, which seeks the disclosure of public records, including financial documents and contracts, upon request by ordinary citizens. Upon its passage, it became the first-ever localized version of the Freedom of Information Law in Metro Manila. Although it did not get implemented at that time, it had
ordinary citizens talking about transparency. “The good thing that came out of that campaign was
that it sparked the consciousness of Pasigueños about the importance of transparency in governance.”
Looking back, Mayor Vico says everything that he
had done in his life had always been geared toward
government work. But how he toppled a Goliath and
won the mayorship in Pasig is a different story—
destiny must have played a part.
His decision to run for mayor came about because he saw the need for change in the political scene in Pasig City, and he saw that no one else wanted to run. “Until the very last minute before filing my certificate of candidacy for mayor, I kept saying ‘If anyone else wants to run for mayor, hindi ako tatakbo; susuporta lang ako, basta maiba lang. Medyo ma-shift lang namin ang ihip ng hangin dito sa Pasig, masaya na ’ko; hindi kailangang ako ang tumakbo.’ Pero hanggang sa pinakahuling minuto walang ibang kandidatong lalaban sa nakaupong pamilya at that time. Kaya sabi ko, kung walang ibang tatakbo handa naman akong lumaban. (Until the very last minute before filing my certificate of candidacy for mayor, I kept saying ‘If anyone else wants to run for mayor, I won’t run, I will just support; let’s just change the course. If we can just sway the attention of Pasigueños, I’d be happy; I don’t need to run.’ But until the last
minute, there was no other candidate who was willing to challenge the incumbent family at that time.)”
He knew it was a risky undertaking but he stuck to his guns telling his team that it’s okay to lose, as long as they do what they believe is right. “Manindigan tayo (Let’s stand up for what is right),” the then 29-year-old urged his supporters. And their strong convictions won and ended the
Eusebios’ 27-year reign.
People who don’t know the 30-yearold son of actors Vic Sotto and Coney Reyes might think he is too young and still unripe for the position. But his CV says otherwise. Truth is, Victor Ma. Regis Sotto discovered his calling very early on—thanks to his older brother, LA Mumar, who exposed him to the field of governance. “My kuya would come home from college—he is 11 years older than me—tapos ikukuwento niya sa akin ‘yung lessons niya sa school. Ituturo niya sa akin ‘yung Constitution. So from a very early age, naging interested ako. Hindi ko alam, baka na-brainwash ako na gusto ko ang gobyerno pero hanggang sa tumanda ako, ito na lagi ang inaaral ko, binabasa ko. (My brother would come home from college—he is 11 years older than me—then he would tell me about his lessons in school. He would teach me the Constitution. So from an early age, I got interested. I don’t know, maybe I got brainwashed that I want government work, but when I had gotten older, it’s what I studied and read.) So I became more and more interested,” he recalls.
At age nine or ten, he had already made up his mind that he wanted to do governance work—which didn’t necessarily mean entering politics, but simply becoming a government worker. In high school, he would take elective subjects like economics and when he entered college, he took up Political Science, followed by Masters in Public Management.
He worked as a legislative staff member for a couple of years and later on as a civil society member.
“It’s like an NGO (non-government organization), and my work was with Government Watch (G-Watch)
and Political Democracy and Reforms (PODER). That’s where I got my grounding and foundation in
politics and governance work,” he notes. “There are many who want to enter politics but are ill-prepared for what it entails, kumbaga superficial lang ang understanding sa paggo-gobyerno [they only have a superficial understanding of governance].”
Looking back, Mayor Vico says everything that he had done in his life had always been geared toward governance work. But how he toppled a Goliath and won the mayorship in Pasig is a different story—destiny must have played a part.
“To be honest I really didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that people were ready for change,”
he remarks on his win by a large margin of over 87,000 votes. “I decided to run because I felt that
people wanted change. I wouldn’t say that I was surprised but neither would I say that I expected it. Of
course in politics, it’s very hard to predict, so we were just taking it one step at a time. Basta lalaban kami
hangga’t kaya. Bahala na kung ano mangyari. (We will fight for as long as we can. Whatever will be, will
THE FIRST 100 DAYS
“[My first 100 days as mayor were] the most challenging 100 days of my life. Pero sa tulong po ninyong mga Pasigueño, naging makabuluhan ang nakaraang 100 days. Napakalayo na po ang narating natin mula July 1 (But with your help, those 100 days became meaningful. We’ve gone a long way since July 1),” he declares in his State of the City Address.
He refuses to be bogged down by external pressure because he knows that he’s doing his best—
consulting the best people, making his teams strong, governing the best he possibly can. There has been a lot of institutional changes, a lot of concrete changes happening over the short period of time that he’s been mayor. He has mainly focused on his administration’s Big Five Agenda— transparency, universal healthcare, affordable housing, education, and participative governance.
To combat corruption, Mayor Vico made sure people knew that he is strongly against any form of
bribery, “kickback” or red tape. “Ako mismo bilang pinuno ng aming pamahalaang panlungsod,
wala akong tinatanggap na hindi ko dapat makuha. Ang natatanggap ko lang na pera ay ‘yung sweldo
ko, ‘yun lang. (As the leader of the city government, I don’t get anything that I’m not supposed to receive. I only get my monthly salary, that’s it.) And I think it will really have a trickledown effect; it will go down the ranks. Dahil hindi ako gumagawa ng ilegal, or hindi ako tumatanggap ng lagay o kickback, puwede akong manita. Kung corrupt ang mayor, ano’ng sasabihin ng department head niya? ‘Sa akin Php50,000 lang, sa iyo isang milyon.’ (Because I don’t do anything illegal, I don’t accept bribes or kickback, I can call out the
offenders. If the mayor is corrupt, what will his department head say? ‘I got Php50,000, while you got 1
million.’) It won’t work that way, it has to come from the top,” he insists.
The city government has also introduced a lot of institutional changes even in their Bids and Awards Committee. They get external observers to ensure that an open public bidding takes place. And if they receive corruption complaints through their Ugnayan sa Pasig (USAP) unit, Mayor Vico makes sure that these are addressed. “Inaaksyunan talaga namin [We act on it], we don’t turn a blind eye when we see something or when we hear a complaint. Iniimbestigahan namin (We investigate). Right now, we have a department head and one rank-and-file employee who are under suspension. There were some who got suspended, removed from their posts, or weren’t renewed because of evidence of corruption; others opted to resign,” he discloses.
Healthcare is one of the priorities of Mayor Vico’s administration. They have in fact earmarked 21% of their funds for the improvement of healthcare services in the city. One of the immediate steps they
have taken is to ensure that there are medicines in all their health centers; they evaluated and made
the necessary changes in their delivery schemes. They also looked into the rationalization of their
healthcare staff. “We’re adding around 300 positions for our city’s healthcare professionals, putting
in the resources, and asking help from external experts. We are also partnering with medical institutions
like Medical City—they have adopted five of our health centers and potentially other healthcare institutions.”