Next year’s elections—at least for the Senate—promise a generational shift: the arrival of new faces with new attitudes and advocacies, even if some bear familiar surnames.
With up to 40 percent of voters aged between 18 and 30 years old (a number estimated at 18 million), it makes sense for the “old guard” to give way to the new generation, a new generation of politicians with a fresh appeal and the ability to view national affairs through “new eyes” and use the language of the hip and current to get across to young voters.
I had the chance to meet with two young congressmen aspiring for a seat in the Senate. Though they belong to different parties and are expected to face off against each other and also other youthful candidates as well as fairly senior ones, they bring to national politics not only familiar names and faces but also impressive track records on their own.
Though he is yet on his first term as a congressman, Rep. JV Ejercito of San Juan is already doing so well in opinion polls that party leaders are convinced he has a good chance of landing in the “Magic 12.” This despite the fact that his father, former President Erap, has already committed to contest the mayoralty of Manila and may not be able to lend him all-out support in the campaign.
But Ejercito seems to relish a challenge. A three-term mayor of San Juan, he says that people warned him when he decided to run for Congress that he would find the House “boring” after the rough-and-tumble of local politics. And while he concedes that as a local executive “you can immediately see the problem and find the solutions you need,” he claims to be enjoying his stint as a congressman.
Together with a group of young legislators, most of whom likewise belong to political clans, he has been able to form a rather convenient national network, and as vice chair of the committee on local governments, he has sought to bring national laws to bear on the more immediate concerns of local executives.
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Ejercito has plenty to be proud of, at least as far as San Juan is concerned, where, by the way, his mother Guia Gomez is now mayor.
Begun during his third and last term and completed by his mother, San Juan’s brand-new City Hall, a white edifice that can be found at one end of the Pinaglabanan Shrine, will soon be inaugurated. “I wanted to clear the park of the squatter shanties that overwhelmed it,” he says by way of explaining the choice of locale, using his phone to download aerial views of the complex.
The new City Hall is a testament to the tremendous strides San Juan made under his watch. “In 2006, our city was found to have the lowest poverty incidence in the country,” he boasts, which means it had the least number of residents living below the poverty line.
As a congressman, Ejercito also authored a “people’s participation” bill that institutionalizes the practice (carried out by, among others, the late Jesse Robredo in Naga) of including nongovernment organizations in local governance councils. The bill was passed on third reading, but has yet to find a counterpart in the Senate.
“Young voters now look at your performance and not just your name,” he declares, and judging by his track record as a congressman and mayor, he certainly has good reason to expect positive results in the coming polls.
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Aurora Rep. Edgardo “Sonny” Angara underwent a “baptism of fire” in the rigors of national politics and public attention during the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona.
As a spokesperson of the House panel during the hearings, the youthful-looking Angara had to daily “interpret” the proceedings in the Senate Hall which at times earned the ire of feisty and outspoken senators. Even his father, Sen. Edgardo Angara, had to withstand attacks on his “objectivity” as a senator sitting as a judge given Sonny’s fervid defense of the House panel.
“During those days,” he confides, “I would avoid family get-togethers, precisely so as not to seem to be trying to influence my father.”
But, he says, being a second-generation Angara seeking a Senate seat is not so much a bane as a blessing. “Yes I will inherit the few enemies my father has made,” he conceded during yesterday’s “Bulong Pulongan at Sofitel.” “But more than that, I believe I have earned the goodwill that the Angara name has created.”
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Certainly, joining his camp will be the country’s senior citizens, who are grateful not just for the fact that the senior Angara is the original author of the Senior Citizens’ Law, but also that Sonny authored the law’s “expanded” version, which, among other benefits, extends discounts on electricity and water bills to the elderly.
Also to his credit, Sonny’s stint as chair of the committee on higher and technical education has resulted in refinements of the Department of Education’s “K to 12” program, and expansion of the technical education program, which he said is targeted at the youth population in need of skills to land them gainful employment.
Sonny likewise sees as a “blessing” the fact that many young people, some of them scions of political families if not the sons of sitting senators (like him), have chosen to get involved in politics.
“It’s not that I’m associating quality with youth,” he says, “but young people will bring new thinking, new ways of doing things, to the Senate. Things will be moving a little faster.”
That’s certainly a bracing thought, and an exciting promise as we witness a new generation of politicians, the “post-Edsa” generation, building on the foundations of those who came before them, and forging the future of those to follow.
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