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On the Ground: A Provincial Governor's Insights on the Drama Unfolding in Congress

'We're not hearing anything of direction and of hope for the country.'
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Politics is, unfortunately, a testy subject in the Philippines. The drama unfolding in news headlines and press conferences often eclipses all else, and it’s no surprise that most Filipinos view politics in an unpleasant light. With election season around the corner, even as we battle the COVID-19 pandemic, those views have only been exacerbated as we witness the country’s top leaders hurl insult after insult at would-be 2022 contenders.

Local leaders aren't impressed, one of which is the governor of Cavite, Jonvic Remulla, the social media-savvy provincial leader who’s previously made headlines for his outspoken and often humorous, posts on social media. Perhaps known best for his hilarious class suspension posts on Facebook, Remulla is also getting attention for his increasingly vocal opinions on the leadership, and perhaps lack thereof, in this time of crisis. 

Wag po nating abusuhin at ubusin ang pasensya ng tao sa ka-cheapan at mga argumentong walang magandang patutunguhan,” said Remulla on social media without naming names, as there are already plenty of top-level politicians making headlines for their emotional tirades. 

Remulla himself made the news a few months back over an issue regarding ECQ aid distribution for former Manila residents who moved to Cavite. Remulla and Manila mayor Isko Moreno famously traded choice words but settled the issue with a phone call, and a few months after, Remulla came to Moreno’s defense when the President mocked Moreno’s past as an actor and model, saying he was “trained as a call boy.” 

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“Hindi tama na tapaktapakan ang nakaraan, paninindigan at reputasyon ng isang taong wala namang kalaban-laban,” said Remulla on social media. “Ang paghuhusga ay ilaan na lamang po natin sa mga taong lumabag sa batas o siyang mga nagtraydor sa bayan.” 

Election season is just around the corner, and it’s clear that the aspiring candidates are ready to play the game of mud-slinging—but some spectators are not amused. In an exclusive interview with Summit Media, governor Remulla shared his thoughts on the two important aspects missing in Philippine leadership today. 

“Number one, we need to see the end, how we're going to get to the end of this pandemic. All we've been hearing are issues that are related to the crisis but not related to solving this pandemic. We need to hear when the vaccine [will arrive], how much the vaccines [will cost], how many vaccines will be arriving, and where it will be distributed. Without that, people are desperate,” shared the governor. 

As a local government leader, Remulla is on the ground dealing with the fallout of the pandemic. He recounted how he’s received countless letters asking for financial aid for COVID-related hospitalizations. It’s relatively common for these bills to reach P1 million per person, most from families who earn no more than P40,000 per month. 

"So without adequate health insurance, it's almost impossible for them to pay. They lose their life savings, they lose whatever they have just to save their lives, and some of them end up with a mortality in the family," he said. "So down below, people are desperate. But above this, we're not hearing anything of direction and of hope for the country.” 

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The dialogue has certainly taken a negative turn in recent months as tensions rise and elections draw near, which Remulla believes is not helping the people heal. 

“Everyone is talking about the elections. And I think it's not important for the candidates to speak about 2022 or how they will end this pandemic. I think it's up to the current President to say so. I think the months that he has left is enough to solve all of this if they do it right.” 

The governor previously shared that representatives from at least three presidentiables have approached him for the support of vote-rich Cavite, the biggest voting stronghold outside of NCR and Cebu. He turned them down, choosing to focus on the problems at hand. 

“I think what the country wants to hear from the candidates is who's prepared to go after this pandemic; who’s prepared for the recovery of the country; who's prepared the best foreign policy to help the country achieve economic growth and political parity with the rest of the region; who is prepared to defend their rights, the sovereign rights of our country; and who is prepared to help the Philippines rise up again and realize the potential that it's had all along,” said Remulla. 

Leadership was the hot topic of the interview, but Remulla made it clear he has no plans of running for a higher position than the one he has now. 

“[This is] the only job I ever wanted, ever since we were in college,” said the governor, who is the son and brother of two former governors (Juanito Remulla Sr. and Jesus Crispin Remulla). Two of his brothers, Jesus and Gilbert, have served as Cavite representatives in Congress, but he has no plans to follow in their footsteps. 

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“I've always been a local guy. I like getting my hands dirty and doing the actual work on the ground. I like being with people. I have nothing against Congress but… I’m very outspoken. I call a spade a spade. I can say what I want and I can hear different opinions and not fight about it, but even personality ko di bagay dun eh. Marami akong masyadong makakaaway dun, and I’m not a very agreeable person.”

There have been plenty of arguments about what makes a good politician, but less so on what makes a good leader. The traits of statesmen grow less and less common, and the governor from Cavite presents plenty of strong points that voters need to consider in the coming months. 

Rationality, level-headedness, and leadership—these are all things we need more of these days. 

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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