"There seems to be hope, after all."
The May 13, 2019 elections are being widely seen as typical of the substandard electoral exercises to which this country has become accustomed. Candidates cavorting on stage, debateless campaigns, recycled and over-the-hill figures and assorted other second-rate personalities are, during this campaign season, filling the electoral landscape, as they have done over the years. To the frustrated Filipino voter there seems to be no saving grace.
But there is one. That saving grace is the presence in the list of candidates for the top national and local position—Senators, Representatives and governors—of young men and women of very high quality. Imbued with a desire to make Philippine democracy work better and to raise the level of governance in this country, they have dared to enter the election ring and challenge the political status quo.
In the 2019 elections these intrepid young men and women are numerous, but I have chosen to throw the spotlight on three. They are Juan Fidel Nograles, who is running for Representative of the Second District of Rizal; Jessica Jane Villanueva, who is running for governor of Negros Oriental; and Vico Sotto, who is running for mayor of Pasig City. These three magnificent young Filipinos are all in their thirties.
Fidel Nograles has come to the voters of the Second District of Rizal with excellent professional credentials. He was Rizal’s assistant provincial administrator until the time that he filed for his certificate of candidacy. Prior to that, Fidel Nograles was an assistant secretary in the Office of the President of the Philippines and a court attorney in the office of Supreme Court Justice Martin Villarama Jr. In addition, he has been a professor at a number of leading law schools and has been a legal practitioner. Fidel Nograles has a Juris Doctor degree from the Ateneo Law School and a Master of Laws degree from Harvard University.
Fidel Nograles has written articles on a broad range of legal subjects. These have included illegal searches and seizures, ASEAN’s responsibility for the protection of sovereignty over natural resources, cost recovery mechanisms, determination of the nationality of a corporation sole, Executive legislation and defining capital under the Constitution. At Ateneo he headed a project for the Teehankee Center for the Rule of Law, and at Harvard University he was the editor of the International Law Journal.
Jessica ‘Ikay’ Villanueva, is not without politics in her DNA: she is the great-granddaughter of pre-Commonwealth Senator Hermenegildo Villanueva. Ikay Villanueva was a member of the Provincial Board of Negros Oriental, representing the First District at the time she decided to throw her hat into the gubernatorial ring. Prior to that, Ikay Villanueva was a member of the staff of First District Representative Josy Limkaichong and a three-term municipal councilor.
Young Ms. Villanueva has thrown the gauntlet at the re-electionist governor, who got to his present post upon the deaths, in quick succession, of the then-governor and the then-vice governor. Apart from her intelligence, industry and forceful personality, Jessica Villanueva has in her favor the fact that her opponent is facing a graft charge in the Office of the Ombudsman. A decision from that office before May 13, 2019 would enormously help Jessica Villanueva’s candidacy.
The third young candidate I have chosen to feature in this column is Vico Sotto of Pasig City. The son of show business parents—comedian Vic Sotto and actress Coney Reyes—this young man has a tough fight on his hands. He is running against re-electionist mayor Bobby Eusebio, a member of a family that has held the Pasig City mayorship for the last 27 years. Vico Sotto was a city councilor until he filed his certificate of candidacy.
Is Vico Sotto daunted by the fact that he is taking on someone surnamed Eusebio? If he is, he does not show it. Indeed, he is quite sanguine about his chances. He thinks that this time around the people of Rizal’s former capital will finally say “Enough is enough” and elect someone who is not a Eusebio. Who knows—Vic Sotto’s son might just be the man who will put a non-Eusebio in the Pasig City mayor’s office.
Fidel Nograles, Jessica Villanueva and Vico Sotto—three young Filipinos who, together with other worthy young candidates in this coming elections, hopefully are the future of Philippine politics.