Mayor Vico Sotto's Humans of Ateneo Post Is More Relevant Than Ever

'Half the battle is being well-prepared: studying the situation, knowing where there will be points of opposition, knowing what you can’t change for now, I think, is an important thing to come to terms with.'

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, mayor Vico Sotto has more than proven himself. He set up disinfecting tents around the city, distributed around 1,000 disinfecting equipment, and supported health workers and frontliners, to name a few. It's worth looking back to the Pasig City mayor's Humans of Ateneo post where he detailed his journey in politics, his views on corruption, and more.

Read Vico Sotto's Humans of Ateneo post below.

I started in government a few years after graduating from Ateneo—very idealistic tapos parang nafrustrate ako with certain things, mga institutionalized practices. I don’t blame anyone, ‘cause it’s been like that for so long, pero di ko alam anong gagawin ko. Nag-resign ako, and then naghanap ako ng trabaho kasi di ko alam anong gagawin sa buhay ko. Eventually, sinabi ko, “Sige, Masters kaya ako.” Naginquire ako sa UP and Ateneo. I had a former prof, sa undergrad ko, PolSci. Alam ko nagtuturo siya sa ASOG (Ateneo School of Government) so I messaged her and asked, “Ma’am, okay ba yung MPM (Masters in Public Management) ng ASOG?” Sabi niya sa akin, “Huwag ka muna mag-Masters, for enriching lang yan. Kung gusto mo, magtrabaho ka muna sa akin.”

Government watch and political democracy and reform yung programs ko, under din ng ASOG pero napaka-independent. I was there for less than a year, pero sa totoo lang, doon talaga ako nahasa. Especially with the way I think: how to push for governance reforms, inaral ko lahat ng ginawa nila in the past, at ano yung engagement nila sa local governments.


After that, I resigned and decided to run for councilor. I was well prepared, and that job in ASOG really helped me. No credit to myself, kasi sinwerte lang ako na napunta ako sa government watch a few months before I ran. Naisip ko, paano kung tumakbo na ako right after college? Kasi people were already convincing me to run noon. Paano kung for some reason, um-oo ako? I wouldn’t be the same person. Malamang magiging corrupt na rin ako kung ganun. I strongly believe that anyone can be corrupt; we can’t think too highly of ourselves. Pag pumasok ka sa kaguluhang 'yan, pag pumasok ka sa giyera na di ka handa, mawawala ka talaga. Kailangan talaga ng tamang preparasyon.

Most of my experiences are in government and working alongside government sa civil society, so one of the biggest challenges is really getting off our high horses. Not accepting, but understanding certain realities. There are certain things in government that, before I entered or before I ran, are my non-negotiables. And I think that’s what's most important for everyone who wants to get into government, kung malinis talaga yung intention. Ako, very minimal lang naman, I don’t claim to be the best person: No vote buying, di ako tatanggap ng kickback, di ako mananakit ng tao. Everything else, pwede ko pag isipan.

Malinaw sa akin na kapag merong nag-alok sakin, kahit 10,000 pesos lang yan o 10 billion pesos, wala na. I entered this na yun yung decision ko: no kickbacks. So, sige kung meron kayong gustong pag-usapan, sige pag-usapan natin. Kung tingin niyo may gray areas, sige, convince niyo ako, pero di ako tatanggap ng kickback, kahit isang piso. Yun yung pinakamahirap sa lahat, kasi a lot of people enter the government with good intentions, but they get lost along the way kasi they didn’t decide beforehand ano hindi nila gagawin. Things change everyday: New opportunities come and go, you’ll meet someone you didn’t expect the next day, so it’s hard to say naeto yung gagawin ko.” It’s impossible. Di mo naman alam kung magagawa mo yun eh, pero yung hindi ko gagawin, kahit anong mangyari, di ko siya gagawin.

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What helps me stay grounded in these beliefs is really the people: what kind I surround myself with, and if I have enough who will support me when I make decisions. As long as I have people around me with integrity, with the same ideology as I do, similar governance perspectives, then I know I’ll be okay. Because, obviously, nobody’s perfect so I will make mistakes along the way: not just technical, but moral as well. The thing that I should consider is if I will have people to confront me and tell me I’m making those mistakes, because everyone has their blind spots. When you’re in the middle of the storm, it’s very easy to lose sight of the future, it’s easy to lose sight of your principles and your beliefs. I need people who are with me and will be able to confront me and tell me that I’m at that point already.

Many of the problems that we have in our government and as a country are very deeply institutionalized. Ang daming lumang kalakaran na kapag 20 years nang ginagawa, minsan di mo na nakikita kung bakit siya mali, kasi 20 years na siyang ginagawa. So, the biggest challenge for me as someone who wants to push for change—however far we can go with it—has nothing much to do with my age. It’s really the culture of government, and the norms that are already in place. It’s hard to introduce change in a very bureaucratic, procedural, and rigid government.


So, in the end, it is really just a matter of finding the right balance. Obviously, you don’t want to move too slow, because nothing’s gonna happen. If you try to move too fast, the people, the institution, the organization might not be ready for it. Paano kung mas malakas sila? Edi sayang lang lahat din ng effort if nothing is going to happen. I think my favorite analogy for pushing for change is Jim Collins’ analogy of a giant wheel. A giant wheel, when you start to push it, nothing will happen. If there are two of you, baka nothing will happen pa rin. But, if there are 10 of you pushing, maybe it will move a little bit. If you get more and more people to help you and you start to strategize—baka dapat may lever dito, may maghatak dito, dito yung strategic angle to push this wheel—then eventually the wheel will start to move an inch or two, will start to move a foot. Eventually, it will start to increase its speed. When it starts to gain momentum, actually, the opposite is now the problem: mahirap na siya pigilan. If you try to get in front of the wheel, you will probably get hurt from trying to stop it.

Here, in the local government of Pasig, we are talking about a city that has 850,000 people. We are talking about a bureaucracy that has almost 10,000 employees. We are talking about a budget that is around 12 billion pesos for next year. So, it’s really not easy to change anything. Kahit nga sign lang sa pintuan, mahirap baguhin. But, we have to be strategic and a big part of being able to introduce these changes and introducing clean governance, pushing for open governance, accountability in governance is really being well prepared. Individually, hindi pwedeng, “Pasok tayo sa laban!” pero di mo alam kung paano gamitin yung armas mo. Half the battle is being well-prepared: studying the situation, knowing where there will be points of opposition, knowing what you can’t change for now, I think, is an important thing to come to terms with. I think it’s a journey that I think not only people in government will face, but anyone who wants to introduce some type of change. I think a big part of staying sane as someone who’s idealistic is accepting that I can’t change everything at the same time.


See Humans of Ateneo's post below:

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Paolo Chua
Associate Style Editor
Paolo Chua is the Associate Style Editor at Esquire Philippines, where he writes about fashion and grooming. Before joining Esquire Philippines, he was a writer at Town & Country Philippines.
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