Archive for the ‘loving the philippines’ Category

A Grounded Captain: Jagna’s Mayor Exuperio Lloren

April 16, 2007

For the longest time, government officials in the Philippines, from barangay councilors up to and including the president of the republic, have been viewed, almost unanimously, by the populace as being corrupt, self-serving, scheming, and devoid of any scruples whatsoever.

Exceptions to this rule are very far and very few in between, which is why the terms “respectable local official”, “morally-upright politician”, and “competent public servant” are now universally considered, at least in the Philippines, to be totally oxymoronic.

Enter Mayor Exuperio “Eksam” Lloren of Jagna, Bohol, one of the many local government officials today who are proud, defiant even, to call themselves “Akbayan members.”

An activist since forever, Mayor Eksam chose to give local politics a go after deciding, finally, to try a different activist path. In his first attempt, he was elected Barangay Captain of Pagina, one of the 33 barangays of Jagna. During this period, he also became the president of Jagna’s Association of Barangay Captains (ABC), which elevated his status to that of a municipal councilor.

He must have been exceptionally effective at being barangay captain and ABC president because, when the next election came around, “Captain Eksam” suddenly became “Mayor Eksam!” Considering that he isn’t a movie actor – although he can easily pass for one – a scion of a local political clan, or a jueteng lord, this feat becomes all the more remarkable.

Obviously, the values and principles that guided him during his young activist days still served him well when he applied them to his local governance work; so much so that he was voted for a second term as mayor of Jagna.

Under his watch, the people of Jagna were finally able to meaningfully participate in the development of their Local Economic Development Plan. Small wonder since Mayor Eksam, like Akbayan, has always espoused consultative and participative governance processes.

Knowing full well that Jagna must not depend solely on their meager Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) income, the local government – led by Mayor Eksam – focused on building up Jagna’s local economies, especially those related to the municipality’s traditional agricultural products.

Cooperatives were set up for Jagna’s Ube planters and Kalamay producers and, soon, for the rice farmers, and vegetable and cut-flower growers as well. Jagna’s local government also saw the value of investing in the technical training of its youth. The marketing of local products was likewise improved and “organic farming” soon became their battle-cry.

Mayor Eksam must have done something right because Jagna’s annual income has been increasing at an exponential rate (an average of ten million Pesos a year) since 2001, the year he was first voted into office. Is it still a wonder then why, even now, his supporters are already looking forward to when he becomes more than just “Mayor Eksam?”

This coming 14th of May, he will be running for his third and last term. Barring any untoward human machinations, his victory is already a foregone conclusion.

Mayor Eksam is doing his part for the development of the country and Akbayan is proud and committed to support him every step of the way.


The ideal world of Barry Gutierrez

March 27, 2007


In an ideal world, there should be nothing remarkable about the story of Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez, Jr.

An achiever from his early days at Philippine Science High School all the way to the UP College of Law and a committed lawyer, he was granted the opportunity to pursue a Masters’ Degree in Public Interest Law from New York University (NYU). Wife and young son in tow, he left the Philippines for a two-year stint in the United States. Amidst cajoling from relatives and friends to stay on after he completed his degree, he went back to the Philippines – more committed than ever to finish where he left off.

In visa-crazy Philippines, however, with snaking lines outside the US Embassy and everyone and his mother dreaming of the Land of Milk and Honey, his is an extraordinary story indeed. For many, it is letting go of an opportunity. For Barry, it is simply standing by a life-choice.

Not that this 33-year-old lawyer treats this “life-choice” as a big deal. Forever punctuating his sentences with a hearty chuckle that is always just a little too loud and hogging the magic mike just a little longer than he should, Barry is neither the grim and determined activist nor the morose nationalist that one might imagine. He simply is someone who is truly happy to be back home – home being not only the Philippines, but also, a small unit at a housing project inside the UP, a teaching job in the College of Law , and a law practice dedicated to poor and the marginalized.

To refute allegations from well-meaning people that he and people like him are simply being foolish, Barry came up with an email that he sent to friends. Such was the power of this email that it was circulated heavily, even landing in national newspapers. In this email, Barry expounds: “”Neither do I believe that the United States is such a wonderful place to live and raise a family in. This is a country that spends billions on law enforcement and “homeland security,” but where almost no one feels safe in their own home. This is a nation with the best medical facilities in the world, but where without health insurance you cannot even get a splinter removed. This is the land of the free, at least until the government starts suspecting you are a terrorist.”

In AKBAYAN where Barry is legal counsel and in the UP Institute of Human Rights where he is director, these principles are put to good use – and find good company amidst like-minded individuals who believe in the same thing. And for Barry, that is the entire point.

He is not THE bright and shining example for other people to emulate. He is but one example of a person daring to make the unpopular choice, daring to make a difference amidst despair and desperation.

And doing so at home. Happily.