Chalk Exclusive: Mayor Vico Sotto Urges, “Now is the time for the youth to keep pushing the system.”
The morning of my e-meeting with Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, it was announced that the Enhanced Community Quarantine placed on Metro Manila and other parts of the country will continue beyond the supposed lift on April 30. President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to extend lockdown measures for the second time might have been anticipated by most–surely, Mayor Sotto’s office must have had plans labeled from A to Z in response to it. But, even as one of the most highly regarded public servants during these trying times, the millennial mayor can admit that it’s impossible to expect perfect governance from any leader, let alone a first-term official like himself. “This crisis is unprecedented. None of us has gone through anything like this in our lifetimes.”
At 30 years old, Mayor Sotto’s defining youth can be perceived by some as a disadvantage. It’s a challenge that those of us who eagerly want to make a difference do encounter vis-à-vis the more experienced. “By virtue of our age, mas mababa ‘yung karanasan natin,” he concurs to Chalk. But it’s no way a reason to concede. He adds, “We should compensate by getting our hands dirty, going down to the ground, and getting as much exposure as we can in the field that we want to contribute to.”
For all of us who have been glued to social media for matters related to the COVID-19 crisis, it’s impossible to miss the efforts and policies that Mayor Sotto has implemented in Pasig. From projects that answer to the basic needs of the citizens such as the Mobile Palengke, free transportation for health workers, compensation for drivers, and distribution of relief packages, to systematic measures that ensure public safety usually broadcasted by the Mayor himself through Facebook live sessions, it’s highly evident that he is going above and beyond what’s expected of a traditional politician.
How, you may ask? Mayor Sotto’s brand of governance lies on preparedness which, he recommends, is a unique avenue to start from for us young people. “Naghahanda tayo na hindi lang basta kung ano ‘yung nakita natin ay tatanggapin na natin na tama.” This is a refreshing insight from someone who hails from a clan of established political figures. Mayor Sotto further cites that politics is rigged with ways that are lawfully and even morally wrong but have already been “institutionalized” by previous administrations. It’s easy to ride on these old streaks and think, “Wala kang magagawa, ganun talaga eh.”
But, in this kind of challenge, Mayor Sotto claims that the youth is presented with the opportunity to “see things beyond face value and dig deeper.” In case you’ve encountered discriminatory remarks that fall along the lines of, “Ano bang ambag ng kabataan?” Mayor Sotto is the living proof that we, as young people, have so much to offer. Our intentional efforts can ignite radical outcomes even amidst seemingly absolute structures that no longer serve the progress that our society requires and deserves.
Mayor Sotto urges, “Now is really the time for the youth to be prepared and keep pushing the system.” In the face of adversities such as this pandemic, he believes that our generation has a distinct kind of creativity and innovativeness when it comes to making things better. “We see a problem, we can figure out how to help solve it, if not solve it altogether.”
In line with our natural affinity to sparking change, even the frustrations and anger that we feel towards these troubling circumstances can be channeled into something positive according to Mayor Sotto. “During a time of great volatility and uncertainty, we shouldn’t pretend that those emotions don’t exist,” he says. Even seemingly negative energies have something to teach us: that there is still room for improvement in terms of the things that we’re apprehensive about. Mayor Sotto encourages us to examine what we can do about these feelings by deliberating, “Maybe I can help out in my own community. Baka may nakikita akong nangangailangan na hindi natutulungan ng gobyerno. Baka may pwede akong gawin.”
And taking action is indeed our forte, contrary to what others may assume. Now, more than ever, we are empowered to challenge the norms, stand up for the oppressed, pioneer progress, and bring our nation closer to the future–one where transparency, accountability, and vigorous participation from every part of the society are valued, as Mayor Sotto hopes.
“As cliché as it may sound, ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan–‘yun pa rin talaga ‘yung totoo,” he relates, confirming the timeless concept that stands as one of the strongest pillars of Philippine history. Mayor Sotto may be lauded as an emblem of greatness right now, but his core–in its utmost sincerity–is all about holding the torch together with young and capable hands and passing it on to them when the time comes.
But while we are faced with a global catastrophe at present, Mayor Sotto believes that each one of us has a role to play in enabling our nation to endure and recover. It is only up to us to rise up to the challenge. “Let’s keep pushing ourselves,” he insists. “Let’s keep pushing together, so that we can get through this crisis sooner rather than later.”
Story Produced by Madel Asuncion
Cover Art by Faye Amante
Art Direction by Mikka Caronan
Video Produced by Deiniel Cuvin
Video Edited by Play It Forward