June 03, 2013

Being a City Councilor at 25

A few weeks back, I sought out BG Guingona because I thought of writing an article about the newest face in Zamboanga City politics. He graciously accepted to conduct an interview. Unfortunately, this never got published, so I figured I should just go ahead and share this in my blog.

            Being the youngest newly elected city councilor for Zamboanga City’s second district, Benjamin “BG” B. Guingona, IV felt both honored and flattered. “Nakakataba ng puso kasi it touches me when people, like at a young age, people entrust me with the mandate to serve the city of Zamboanga because when you’re elected as city councilor, even if you just come from district two, you’re going to serve the entire city.” He also mentioned how some people would discriminate a young candidate when running for a position, but in his case, the people decided to invest their trust in him instead.

            A neophyte in the political scene of Zamboanga, Guingona is considerably younger compared to most officials who are well in their middle ages and who have held positions in the past. Voters claimed that his well-known surname played a role in his victory, but others also say that it had something to do with his youth. “Maybe he can contribute bright and better young ideas.” shared one voter. Other voters threw in their own reasons for voting the young councilor: “[He’s] full of vigor, creative, open to more ideas.” Another claimed that one of the reasons why Guingona was able to secure her vote was because he could speak well.

            After getting a degree in liberal arts with a professional certificate in management at University of Asia and the Pacific in Pasig, he started out as a stockbroker who eventually grew tired of the monotony of his work and decided to apply as executive assistant to Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona, III.

            He admitted to starting out with an apathetic attitude towards the government. After spending time in the senate, he began to realize that he might have a calling in the field of politics. “It lit a fire within me, yung desire for public service, because of my exposure in the senate.”

            Armed with his previous experience in the senate, he decided to go back to Zamboanga City, his hometown. According to Guingona, his family owes a lot to the city because it is where it all started. “Everything we have now came from Zamboanga, so it’s my way of giving back to the people of Zamboanga in terms of public service.”

            He also added that he wanted to set an example to the youth. “Gusto kong ipakita na kahit bata kayo, you can make a difference, no matter how small it may be or no matter how big it may be.” At the same time, he wanted to test his own capacity to serve.

            During the campaign period, he made sure to focus on his advocacy of good governance. To him, this meant reminding the people that the government funds are public funds. “What I’m advocating, during the campaign and until now, yung pondo ng gobyerno dapat napupunta sa tamang proyekto.” He also added that there is a need for transparency. The people should be aware of where these funds are allocated and their needs should be taken into consideration when planning projects.

            In terms of the challenges he is facing with this new position, Guingona cites two. One is solving the problems of the city and the second is proving to the people that he has the capacity to make a difference even at a young age. “It’s impossible to bring change overnight. It’s impossible to bring progress overnight. Sa tingin ko kasi, no matter what age you are, no matter what age bracket you belong, everyone can make a difference.”

            One other challenge that Guingona faces is upholding the reputation of his last name. He said that he definitely has big shoes to fill since he’s related to a former vice president, an incumbent senator and an outgoing city councilor. He feels that he must be able to live up to the integrity and standards of his kin. He also shared of the challenge that came from hailing from a family of public servants. “Sila magagaling. How would you fare kaya? So, another challenge is to prove that I can make my own identity, but how? I’ll just be myself and it remains to be seen for the next three years.”

            Guingona will officially start his term as councilor on July 1. His plans include going around the city and inquiring about the needs of the people. He claims that his style in governance is centered on consultation. Through this, he will be able to pinpoint the problems that need to be addressed. Currently, he believes that the agricultural sector of the city must be given attention. Aside from setting aside subsidies for supplies, he also said that proper training for the people is also needed. This way, the future of the city and of the youth will be secured.

            In his message to the people of Zamboanga, Guingona expresses gratitude for the trust that is given to him. “First and foremost, I would like to thank them for giving me their trust and confidence, providing me the opportunity to serve the people of Zamboanga in a higher capacity. It is a very honorable yet humbling experience that at a young age, I have a very big responsibility of looking after the city of Zamboanga.”

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