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A tale of two mayors

Two newly elected mayors have recently caught the public’s eye and imagination: Isko Moreno in Manila and Vico Sotto in Pasig.

Both are young, promising and charismatic, with names linked to celebrity. Both are neophytes hailed for defeating dynastic long-timers and eager to make their mark in a political landscape dominated by President Duterte’s brand of strongman leadership.

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Moreno’s initial focus on order and cleanliness, and his ability to command the public’s attention through the media, have made him an instant hit among many while earning his share of critics. His brand as the hardworking former scavenger boy from the slums of Tondo is displayed and put to greater effect in every interview.

In contrast, Sotto has kept a relatively lower profile than his counterpart in Manila, favoring personal engagements strategically amplified by social media. A few days ago, he appeared in a picket line to support the workers of Zagu, a Pasig-based company. He did this without any media in tow, earning him the praise of progressives.

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For all their similarities, the differences of these two rising figures have been laid remarkably well in the past two weeks. Comparing their performances and approaches is not just about who can move higher up the political ladder, but also about political alternatives.

Mr. Duterte, a former mayor himself, won by promising sweeping changes with a ruthless Machiavellian and populist resolve. While apologists can name achievements here and there, the legacy of this administration will be defined primarily by its merciless war on drugs that, according to one estimate, has already killed 27,000 Filipinos, including children as young as 3 years old.

What’s clear is that genuine, lasting change has yet to be delivered. The other crucial thing to consider is the people’s pulse. How can Mr. Duterte cause so much bloodshed, yet remain one of the most consistently popular leaders our country has seen in recent times?

We know what he has been doing wrong; what’s less clear is what he has been doing right to shore up and maintain such political capital even after three years down his term.

While Manila and Pasig are two different cities facing their own unique challenges, the two mayors are well-positioned to redefine effective and popular leadership in a democracy currently challenged by a new era of authoritarian decay.

Can change be delivered while fully respecting human rights and our democracy? The two mayors may finally offer us new and refreshing answers.

Kevin Mandrilla works as a communications professional for the tech industry. Formerly a youth leader, he finds time to volunteer for and write about politics, culture and current events.

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TAGS: Isko Moreno, MANILA, Pasig, Vico Sotto
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