Herbert Bautista on the Mayoralty, Marriage, and (Maybe) the Senate
ESQ&A: HERBERT BAUTISTA
Quezon City Mayor
This interview originally appeared in our April 2014 issue.
ESQUIRE: Do people still call you Bistek?
HERBERT BAUTISTA: Marami. And they call me by different names. For senior citizens they still call me Reneboy, my character in a soap opera in the ‘80s. Bistek for my contemporaries. But for the young ones, they call me mayor. And to think akala ko wala nang nakakakilala sa’kin eh.
ESQ: 2016 is coming up, I know you have one more term as mayor. But are you thinking of higher office?
HB: I’ve been inquiring, you know, I talked to Vice President Binay at the Edsa Revolution anniversary. He asked me, “Ano plano mo? Tapusin mo na ‘yang last term mo.” I got to talk to former President Erap also. I asked him, if an opportunity is there for me to run for higher public office, ano po ang advice niyo sa’kin? Sabi niya, “Pa-survey ka. Kailangan scientific ang decision mo diyan. Now dahil may isang term ka pa, I would advice tapusin mo yung third term mo, and then pagtakbo mo may model ka pa rin. So make sure you do good in QC.”
ESQ: You’ve been so focused on QC, it might be hard for you to let the city go just like that.
HB: What’s really stopping me from not running for the senate is, personally, I still have several programs or projects that I have to launch first. And I’d like to see them fulfilled in my third term. These are all long-term projects or programs that one way or another would be controversial along the way. Like in the case of the environment, we are working closely with a private company on a feasibility study on waste-to-energy. Currently we have a waste-to-energy program in QC, in Payatas, extracting methane and producing electricity for surrounding communities. But it’s not enough. What we’re looking for is a 54-megawatt power plant for QC. Maraming masosolve yun. For example instead of building or coming up with new landfills, wala nang magtatapon sa landfills. I remember one of the documents that I was reading during my school days, there was a part about “environment is local.” Because of that, no local authority will allow people outside of his area to be thrown garbage. In the initial study made, QC is generating about 2,400 metric tons of waste per day, which can generate about 50-52 megawatts. Today, QC government spends about a billion pesos just to collect our garbage and manage it.
ESQ: And you’re finding resistance to this?
HB: Siyempre incineration yun eh. But the Supreme Court said that incineration is not bad. That you reach a certain burning, basta point zero zero something. Pero ang point ko naman, the law was made in the year 2000 or 1999. Its 2014, ang cellphone, dati analogue lang nung araw. Ngayon digital na. And every six months nagbabago yung technology. Baka ganun din naman yung incineration. Baka yung technology nung araw ay iba na ngayon. A plant in Japan can prove that type of burning, wala nang usok and malinis na yung particles.
ESQ: Who’s going to oppose this initiative of yours?
HB: I think Greenpeace would definitely oppose. I can see that already.
ESQ: How do you deal with people you can’t negotiate with?
HB: Siguro yung unang training na maganda, I listen. Tapos explain your points. But if you really don’t reach a particular agreement, kahit prinsipyo man lang, eh di okey lang. Ganun talaga eh. You cannot really convince everyone. But as far as I’m concerned, it solves a lot of things. And that’s just simple waste management. If you produce electricity, you gain something from it. Yung mase-save mong 200 million pwede ka magtayo ng eskwelahan for K-12. Daming magagawa dun. But there will always be some opposition. Pag dumating yung point na yun, wala na talaga akong magagawa.
ESQ: You’ve been a public servant for how many years now?
HB: Since ’85. I’m 45 now. More than my teenage life. Another exciting thing is the 75th anniversary of QC. I’m gaga over it, tuwang tuwa ako diyan. It’s a milestone of course and I’m very thankful that it’s happening in my incumbent year as mayor of QC. There have been 10 mayors in QC and I’m the 10th.
ESQ: Do you have a favorite former mayor of QC?
HB: I got in the QC government in 1985. I took some good points from the different mayors that I worked with. Like the only lady is Adelina Rodriguez. She’s the mother type, she’s more social, meaning cultural, pagtulong sa kababaihan, kabataan, I got some points there. Jun Simon was more, “ano gusto niyo?”, more people-centered type of government. I got that also, which I’m still doing. And then the late Mel Mathay, astute politician. But also a good administrator. It just so happened sa time niya, the first 10 years of the local government code, iniimplement pa lang, so yung mga best practices—hindi pa lumalabas yun. What I got from Speaker Sonny Belmonte was really how to administer local government just like a corporation.
ESQ: Is it difficult being a mayor and a career politician? Sometimes you might do something good for your political career, but it would be bad for your—
HB: That’s Public Administration 101. The dichotomy of a public administrator slash politician. Mahirap siya kasi babalansehin mo.
ESQ: How long have you been in the Liberal Party?
HB: Only when I transferred in 2010. So that’s about four years.
ESQ: Are you already planning ahead? Of course in 2016 the race is already on. Do you know already whom you will be carrying? Will you tow the party line?
HB: I think the party really is democratic enough to choose who they want.
ESQ: Yeah but it’s been said that it’s already going to be Mar Roxas.
HB: Hindi pa sinabi siya di ba?
ESQ: Well sabi ni Senate President Drilon.
HB: Yeah, sabi niya. But remember for the longest time it used to be Mar until P-Noy came along. So baka may mga ganun pa rin, di natin alam.
ESQ: But the frontrunner is of course the vice president.
HB: Yeah, of course.
ESQ: And you’ve known him for a long time.
HB: Yeah, I worked with him when I was vice mayor. I’m working closely with him because of the housing projects.
ESQ: How would you describe the vice president?
HB: Very soft-spoken person. We belong to the same school, the National Defense College, and UP.
ESQ: Would you describe him as an astute politician?
HB: I think he is an astute politician. But I think he’s also an astute administrator because of what happened in Makati. Of course in Makati, very strong ang private sector. But if you do not have a good relationship with the private sector, it also reflects on your output as the administrator or mayor of that particular city. Funny guy, ibang klase mag-punchline. Tsaka may haplos, in all levels of society. Ia-aside ka niya, magbibilin. Ibang klase siya.
ESQ: Are those characteristics you share with him?
HB: Di ko alam.
ESQ: Yeah, sense of humor, soft spoken… you are soft spoken.
HB: Medyo may konting pasaway din. Sa bagay pasaway din siya nung paalisin siya as mayor, nag-Rambo costume siya.
ESQ: You mentioned Mayor Erap. My own opinion was that he was never comfortable in the senate. I think he was bored.
HB: Oo nga. He’s not a legislator. He’s actually an executive.
ESQ: After one term he wanted to go for vice president already.
HB: Kasi mas gusto niya mag-execute.
ESQ: So let’s say if you do seek the senate, or perhaps higher…
HB: Well sanay na ko sa legislation. And now this is my fourth year as an executive, you’re the chief executive of the legislative department, which is like what the senate president is or the speaker. If I run for higher office like the senate, I’ll be comfortable because I was trained in school to do research. I was trained also to deliver speeches backed up by statistics. I can do that and I can actually legislate.
ESQ: And of course maybe the best would be building consensus.
HB: Oo naman, I was also trained that way. Just like in League of Cities of the Philippines you cannot decide without getting the consensus of all the other mayors. Mga mayors matitigas ulo ng mga yun. (Laughs.)
ESQ: How do you achieve a consensus?
HB: Kwentuhan lang siyempre.
ESQ: It doesn’t happen on the floor?
HB: No, you build on it. Unang-una is relationship. Second, pick each other’s brains out. Kung ano view niya sa ganitong—And makikita mo yan sa kwentuhan, not on the floor. Not on committees, sa kwentuhan talaga.
ESQ: Have you ever fired anyone?
HB: No, as much as possible, medyo malambot puso ko eh. As much as possible hinihintay ko na lang sila magretire.
ESQ: It seems that as a politician you have the ability to communicate especially with everyone.
HB: Maybe it’s because of the entertainment industry. You’re exposed to a lot of people. Sabi nila nakakatawa nga eh, “Naku showbiz lang yan! Parang teka muna, ang hirap sa entertainment industry kasi ang nakikita lang ng tao eh yung glamour niya. Yung pinanood mo sa sine, wow ganda niya, gwapo niya. Pero yung technical nun ang hirap ah. It’s a highly technical thing. And as an actor, you have to understand the technicalities of doing a film.
ESQ: Were you part of KBL?
HB: Not KBL, I belong to Kabataan Barangay, the youth movement of the Marcos regime.
ESQ: So you did support Marcos.
HB: Yes, and I remember this incident, sa Aristocrat restaurant along Quezon Boulevard. Kumain kami dun, and then dumating sila P-Noy, puro nakadilaw naman, kami naka Marcos Forever. Ako naman as the president of Metro Manila, what I did was lumapit ako kay P-Noy tapos sabi ko, “Ser kain lang muna po kami dito ah.” That was the first time I met P-Noy.
ESQ: Did you meet the former president Marcos?
HB: I was 10 years old. I remember I was tasked to ask the question, “mahirap ba maging presidente ng Pilipinas?” I can’t remember his answer. Basta sinabi niya, “wag ka mag alala balang araw magiging presidente ka rin.”
ESQ: How old are you, Mayor?
HB: I’m turning 46 this May.
ESQ: And you have two children?
HB: I have four children. Two by two different women.
ESQ: Are you in good terms with their mothers?
HB: Yes I am. I am very thankful that they raised our children quite well. I respect them as individuals kahit di kami nagkatuluyan.
ESQ: But of course a politician, they say, needs a wife.
HB: Kelangan nga ng wife.
ESQ: So wala bang first lady of QC? Of course your predecessor didn’t have one.
HB: Well, the president has no wife.
ESQ: Yes, but he is dating. Are you?
HB: No, I’m not seeing anyone at this point.
ESQ: When was your last relationship?
ESQ: Well, being a politician’s wife or at least a girlfriend is never a happy job.
HB: Para sa akin, kelangan yung tao may sarili siyang ginagawa. Di siya pwedeng walang ginagawa.
ESQ: So that’s what you’ll look for when you meet someone?
HB: Yeah that she’s independent enough. Matibay din. In fact dapat mas matibay siya kesa sa’kin. Siya magsasabi na, “mali yan.” Or “go for it.” Masarap din kausap. Maganda yung pagkagising mo sa umaga may kausap ka. Pag-uwi mo, may kausap ka rin. Yung nagsasabi sa’yo ng totoo, alam mo yun. Those are the ideals but I don’t know if there’s an ideal out there.
ESQ: Of course you have to say that it’s also difficult to date a mayor.
HB: Hindi naman. Panahon lang talaga problema diyan. Timing lang. But if both of you are willing to give each other enough time to be together or to understand each other at the end of the day, walang problema yan.
ESQ: Do you want to get married?
HB: Oo, ayaw nila maniwala that I’m the marrying type eh.
ESQ: Since you mentioned it, President Marcos told you you’d be president one day. Do you want to be president one day?
HB: No, I don’t think so. I thought of it in 1998. It was in my mind that I wanted to become the president then I lost the mayorship.
ESQ: Because they say all politicians want to be president.
HB: Yeah, that’s true. But in 1998 when I ran and lost to the late mayor Mathay, I realized na hindi pwede eh, kahit anong plano mo gawin sa buhay na gusto mo marating yun, madadapa ka. Tapos babangon ka ulit, pero pagbangon mo, di mo na siya pwedeng planuhin na makakarating ka dun.
ESQ: But you did run for mayor again and you won.
HB: Yes, I did. But becoming the mayor for the second time or third time, does not mean you eventually make you a senator, the vice president or the president.
ESQ: But of course you could contend that you are more of a national figure than a local figure.
HB: Yes, may nagpapapicture pa pala sa’kin sa cellphone.
ESQ: But a national position—maybe president at the moment, no. But a na-tional position perhaps?
HB: Yes, could be, it’s an option going into my third term running for the vice pres—senate.
ESQ: Did you just slip there, Mayor?
HB: (Laughs) Hindi no.