Manila Boy

The mayor of Manila is being egged on by several people to run in May 2022 for the top position. Why would Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso jump into the fire? When a second mayoral term is his for the taking with what he has accomplished in his first term, why would he leave the capital? When the reforms have not taken root and sustainability is a real concern, why would Domagoso leave Manileños? Is it because as president, he can do more?

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on February 23, 2021.

It is said that politics is all about timing. Then, there is destiny. Two factors that some believe to be the drivers for a run for the presidency. And yet, the presidency is all about preparations and not bloodline; all about service and not earnings, all about sacrifice and not a free ride. In this pandemic, a candidate will have to confront from day one, issues on health and the economy. And because of the pandemic, a leader needs a clear plan on safety, security and growth. Of course, there are other issues on national security and diplomacy and the pathway to building infrastructure for education and governance in order that we can truly embrace technology as an enabling value to building the nation on the crest of Industry 4.0.

Actually, it is not timing alone, but if one is popular, others would say that it’s the only factor to reckon with to jump into national politics. I do not share such a proposition; for popularity is not the sum total of the institution. Better to embrace “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” than sheer popularity, which does not tell voters anything about risk management, anticipatory planning, data and informed choice, and faith.

The mayor of Manila is being egged on by several people to run in May 2022 for the top position. Why would Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso jump into the fire? When a second mayoral term is his for the taking with what he has accomplished in his first term, why would he leave the capital? When the reforms have not taken root and sustainability is a real concern, why would Domagoso leave Manileños? Is it because as president, he can do more? But there is no direct correlation there. If he does not win as president and his candidate for mayor does not make it, what happens to the city of his birth? It is the city that nurtured him, elected him in 1998 as councilor from nowhere out of sheer popularity as an actor. The same base carried him as vice mayor and supported his call to vote for then-candidate Joseph Ejercito “Erap” Estrada to be mayor of the city in 2013. His word of honor was tarnished by the former president because the latter viewed Domagoso as a lightweight, lacking more of the wherewithal than the willingness to serve. Domagoso showed a lot of gumption in the world of politics when he avoided a collision with the former president in 2016. That speaks of character.

Moreno was often continuously derided by big political names in the city. He was considered a joke by the former president, who sought political refuge and rebirth in the city via Domagoso. If we apply the principle of timing, Domagoso could have clashed with Estrada in 2016. He was popular, but he knew he did not have all the cards with him. Without the milk in politics, a mano-mano (confrontation) was not in Domagoso’s favor. But 2019 was a different story altogether. Timing can propel you, or it can hone and mature you for greater tasks. Like an anvil hammered from the fire, one can create more.

I have seen various politicians, who went up the political ladder only to lose and be unable to return to his/her base because the voters saw that they were merely used for the leader’s personal plan. Would Isko lose his popularity if he stays on in Manila in 2022 to finish his term in 2028? Or will he prevent Icarus’ proverbial waxen feathers from melting by staying in the city and finishing the agenda? Grow stronger wings for a stronger platform to leap from.

Manila has a total number of registered voters of 1,065,149. In 2019, the turnout was 736,156 plus, and Domagoso secured 50.15 percent, increasing his measured capacity since 1998. He started as an actor with popularity, and he learned the ropes and prepared for the vice mayorship, honing popularity, experience and learning into what he is today. Still, there is much room for improvement: maturity in decision making, ability to continually listen and capability of spacing out development for community feedback monitoring are areas of growth. Domagoso has a unique molder; his life narrative explains why his heart beats as such and why its pulse is felt. Domagoso moves with the poor and rubs shoulders with captains of industry, seeing the possibilities of setting up in Manila. Domagoso is both edifice and care. Edifice is reflective of heritage and care for the downtrodden, especially during the pandemic. In the din of hopelessness at the height of Covid-19, Domagoso was the lone voice that, early on, picked up the ball when everyone wanted to stay home.

Domagoso is one of the poor that, by sheer grit, was able to be where he is today because of wanting to give back to the city that gave him his break in life. Giving back meant social services heightened from health, education and housing. Giving back was targeted to the senior citizens, solo parents, students from K-12 and the two local universities of the city. Giving back was working 25/7, foregoing time with his mother and family, protecting them from Covid-19 by not exposing them to him. Domagoso was Covid positive so many times that a room in the City Hall became his quarters in the early months of 2020. He knows what some experienced when their kin died during the lockdowns since his mother died in 2020. The simple mass of the family and handful of friends was vastly different from traditional gatherings when parents of politicians die. That Domagoso grieved outside of the public limelight is worth remembering for that comes rare. It also tells you the kind of rearing he got from his mother, a solo parent to Scott.

The Isko-Honey (Manila Vice Mayor Maria Sheilah Honrado “Honey” Lacuna-Pangan) combination is rare in the capital. They move together. They assist each other. They are yin and yang and as peas in the same pod. They can ensure that the nine years of the tandem will give Manila not just a washover, but a permanent structural change that the capital of the nation deserves. After all, Manila is the Philippines, and the Philippines is Manila. And when politicians are lining up to run in local elections because of the Mandanas ruling on the Internal Revenue Allotment, one wonders why taking risks now is worth focusing on the national instead of the capital.

By 2028, the reforms that Isko-Honey started in 2019 will be permanent. Manila will be a shining beacon on the hill. The capital will truly be unique and magnificent because of the nine years of focused reengineering. At the rate Domagoso has accomplished much in his first 100 days and in 1,095 days, Manila will be like the tower above city hall, a shining citadel for the poor that Manila Boy’s fondest dreams turned into reality. Stay in the capital, and build it further to make the case for 2028.

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About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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