Sifting Through the Political Herd: Leadership in the Time of Crisis

Perspectives

If there’s anything “good” that the COVID-19 pandemic has unearthed, it is that sense of awakening and discernment that the people has gained from looking at how politicians responded in this time of uncertainty and panic. Vico Sotto remains to be the face of good governance and leadership and the people continue to look to their leaders to be like the young visionary mayor of Pasig. Here’s why.

Here’s the thing. In the country’s fight against COVID-19, local government units are suddenly put front and center in the country’s fight to mitigate the damages and risks of the global pandemic—taking on that unenviable task of serving the needs of their constituents following the national government’s recent pronouncement to step into the frontlines.

Barely a week past the enhanced community quarantine placed on the whole of Luzon, one name stood out among local leaders and gained ground in exploring tactics that go above and beyond the call of duty. Social media was quick to hail Pasig’s young Mayor, Vico Sotto as the most coveted leader almost, if not, all Internet-using citizens wished to have.

In fact, as people took to social media to express admiration and respect, #ProtectVico took the top spot on trending topics online citizens talked about in support of the young, visionary mayor as he ironically received baseless and controversial opposition from those in power.

Image: Vico Sotto Instagram

Not even a year after his well-reported assumption to the seat of power, taking over his first term as Pasig City Mayor from decades-long rule of the existing leadership, the 30-year-old leader has now had his public service report card tested, facing the unprecedented crises resulting from the global outbreak. Judging by the good and ringing praise he has been getting in and outside his jurisdiction, especially from “citizen media” online, he has more than passed with flying colors–scoring points by keeping his composure, verve, and dignity, while enacting extraordinary measures to serve his constituents.

Way before the global health emergency, it has been made apparent that the citizens of Pasig considered him as the “best gift ever” to their city, promulgating and staying true to his “Iba naman!” principle that aims to eradicate the age-old concept of politicking and “palakasan” standing in the way of public service. Once known only as “anak ni Vic at Coney”, largely due to showbiz roots, Sotto stepped outside the confines of his surname, now exemplifying the country’s notion of “leadership with a heart”—action complemented by sincere compassion.

In just a week after the government’s polarizing proclamation of the lockdown, Pasig City made news after it bought drones to augment makeshift disinfectant sprays designed to sanitize its streets. The city also mobilized the use of 50 vehicles for the transportation of its health workers as an aftermath of the suspension of mass transport, a swift response after the highly-publicized request for the use of tricycles in communities was eventually turned down by the national government. Not only this, the set-up of sanitation tents, followed by a mobile kitchen that will provide food packs daily for frontline personnel and 400,000 food packs that are ready to be distributed to residents, followed suit. Sotto also noted in his transparent and regular updates to his constituents, “All city government employees, regular or contractual, will get their full salaries during the lockdown.”

But with all these visible actions, Sotto is also not one to claim his rule is “perfect”, but this knowledge and acceptance of such imperfections almost often gets countered by actionable plans to solve problem areas.

Shortly after images of residents flocking wet markets surfaced on the Internet that depict a defiance to the directives on “social distancing”, the city government then set up a mobile palengke (marketplace) that catered to people who need to fend for their families but are subjected to stay at home.

It can’t be helped. Sotto’s leadership and no-non-sense take on public service and speedy response to needs of his people earned him praise not just among citizens of Pasig but more importantly gained him notoriety to inspire even fellow public leaders from other municipalities to start “copying” his ways.

Remember when Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian, attributed the adaptation of a mobile marketplace inspired by the young mayor’s doing—that then ignited a wave of positive feedback for this unlikely “virtual” collaboration? But, even without the social media hype, this collaborative effort inspired hope among the people for local government units stepping up to the plate and taking each other’s best practices for the benefit of the majority.

Vico Sotto, while keeping up with the promises he made for his constituents, arguably became the face of a new brand of action and efficiency in a time that’s clouded by uncertainty and anxiety. With so much praise and attention, Sotto’s leadership has been put and probed under a magnifying lens of public scrutiny, and what’s seen is an impressive formula of social listening, research and innovation, compassion and regard for the human condition.

But what’s more important, the focus on Sotto and his praise-worthy acts brought to light exemplary actions undertaken by his contemporaries–from established to new politicians like Marcy Teodoro of Marikina, Kit Nieto of Cainta, and Isko Moreno of Manila—an inspiring view on leadership to behold.

Recently, the NBI drew flak after a questionable inquiry was served and called on Sotto on a violation to the “Bayanihan Act” with little to no explanation and basis for said inquiry. This then prodded the resurgence of #ProtectVico online, calling for a movement from many, citizens and celebrities alike, to stop this obvious power play to slide by.

If there’s anything “good” that these perilous times have unearthed, it is that sense of awakening and discernment that the people have gained by looking at how politicians heeded the call for good leadership in this time of gloom and panic–empowering the Filipino people to demand accountability, transparency, and respect from the government, as they sift through the herd to see a true leader from a mere “politician”, faulty from good governance. And it goes to show that #ProtectVico, if anything, is representative of the people’s renewed grasp and understanding of good leadership, if we have ever seen one.

All things considered, all eyes will continue to be on Vico Sotto and his game-changing brand of leadership. And as the frenzy continue to show no signs of quieting down any time soon, many Filipinos are waiting for the man to turn 40, and best believe we all know why. And for now, the people will continuously be on the lookout.

With additional text by Jookie Radoc.

**The article has been updated based on recent developments on the subject matter.