Senator Win Gatchalian and I do not agree on politics.  This is quite understandable.  My views have been narrowed by idealism and lack of pragmatism.  I am not an elected official and do not have to navigate the difficulties of winning elections, passing legislation, requesting for budgets, and assuming power.

Bu I have remained an ardent supporter of his advocacies:

  • Integrity in public service
  • Discipline of public officials and the citizenry
  • Quality Education for all children
  • Delivery of an efficient public service

I have witnessed how the Senator transformed a sleepy town called Valenzuela into a multi-awarded city.  I lived in a nearby town and trod its bumpy roads which were constantly flooded.  Piles of garbage lined along the streets.  I felt lost transacting business with City Hall.   We were like a flock of sheep looking for a shepherd.  Government offices were disorganized, cramped and dingy. 

I had fond memories of Valenzuela because my mother was once the district supervisor of its public schools.  Valenzuela was a pilot division and a showcase for excellence.  But sadly, learning achievement of its children plummeted.  In the 2004 National Achievement test, the children from Valenzuela only scored an average of 56%–way below a satisfactory level of 75%.  The schools which were models of beauty, discipline, and quality were crumbling.

With a city that was falling apart, how did the Mayor begin the process of transformation?  He was propelled by a vision with people at its center.  He dreamed of a city where people have adequate access to health care, education, livelihood, and safety.  His dreams had to be interwoven into a system of good governance, efficiency in management, discipline in enforcement, and, integrity in public service.   Most of all, he needed the entire community to walk in lockstep with him.  He had to make his community share his dreams and reshape how people think and behave.  The best way he thought was making them co-owners and co-implementers.  He listened, consulted, and learned.

The first order of the day was enabling the people to see their government in action.   The City Hall that was run-down evolved into an office that was clean, orderly and staffed with people who were courteous   and respectful.  Processes were simplified into systems which eventually resulted into computerized processes.   The Mayor was always visible proudly wearing a uniform and an ID.  His passion for cleanliness translated into clean streets, regular garbage collection, and housing informal settlers into communities.  He worked with barangay captains to build mini-city Halls in every village.  Every barangay has an elementary school and health centers that were staffed with doctors and nurses 24/7 and fully stacked with equipment and medicine.  While this process was being completed, he ran mobile clinics to service the needs of the residents.

The Mayor had the softest heart for children.  He diligently analyzed data to enable him to understand how children performed.  Then he convened education summits where he challenged all the parents to join him in giving every child a good education. Together, they crafted an education plan that went beyond mortars and bricks.  The City embarked on the training of teachers, built the capacity of parents to become Nanay-Tatay Teachers, a massive feeding program, development of instructional materials, and an alternative system for those who have dropped out of school.

He made streets and communities safe.  He organized residents to become discipline-enforcers.   Like Al Pacino, he implemented justice for all.   He gave the public a strong sense of dignity by building offices that provided them with comfort and pride.  His efforts culminated in the construction of a new City Hall where personnel worked in offices with transparent walls and processes.  There is a queuing system for servicing the needs of clients with comfortable chairs and a friendly environment.

The Senator remains humble.  He celebrated his twenty years of public service with the residents he has served and loved.   “These accomplishments are all yours.  They would not have been possible without you.” he declared.

And this is how a city can be won.

Source: Manila Bulletin (