Monday, February 4, 2013

Villar: My Third Senatorial Pick

Assisting Bangus Processors in Pangasinan: Cynthia Villar
inspects different kinds of processed Bangus in packages at
 Brgy. Buenlag in Pangasinan in February 2 this year.
She was accompanied by   Abono Party-list
chairman Rosendo So (L).

From Left: Villar, So, and Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil (2nd District,
Media men ask questions to Villar in Brgy. Lomboy, Binmaley

Senatorial Candidate Villar exchanged pleasantries with
the hoi polloi in Brgy Lomboy, Binmaley

Villar speaks at the "People's Night" held at the public
plaza in Binmaley last February 2.

Pangasinan's  public officials awarded Villar a plaque
of appreciation in gracing the fiesta of Binmaley town.
4th and 2nd from Right are Pangasinan Vice Gov. Ferdie
Calimlim and Binmaley Mayor Lorenzo Cerezo
Villar exhorts the graduates of  foot spa and massage
and the sea of village folks who massed at a gym in Brgy.
Lomboy to see her.

By Andrew James Marasigan

 Her honesty and sense of mission won me over.
I never expected Cynthia Villar to be as unfiltered as she was when we shared an afternoon snack together.
 As a woman who grew up in a political family, and who herself was a congresswoman for nine years, I half-expected her to be patronizing as most politicians are when faced with media. Especially now that she is gunning for a seat in the senate.
 She surprised me, not only for her raw candor but also for her simplicity in character. I've had my eye on Cynthia Villar for some time now as one of my senatorial picks. I like her because she is a quiet worker. The kind that diligently does her bit as a public servant without tooting her own horn. This is rare among our politicos today. Unknown to many, Cynthia sat as president of the Lower House Group of Lady Legislators and has championed the cause of women, children and education for nearly a decade. The majority of laws that protect the rights of the minorities-the Magna Carta for Women, the Juvenile Justice System, and the like-were either authored or co-authored by her. An absentee, non-performing congresswoman she is not. I reckon her to be one of the more prolific, hardworking members of congress, yet one who shies away from self-hype. After completing her third term in Congress in 2010, Cynthia dedicated the lion's share of her time to the Villar Foundation, an organization the Villars put up to help the disadvantaged among us.
They work to provide a source of livelihood to deserving families who have neither the skills nor the capital to do it on their own. Cynthia provides skills training, start-up support and even equipment subsidies to ensure that the livelihood projects are not only launched properly but are made sustainable. I could detect the sense of purpose in Cynthia as she excitedly told me about the many livelihood projects she had initiated.
 Alleviating poverty through livelihood has become her new life's mission. I later on found out that more than 400 families across the country have already benefited from her efforts. The foundation, coupled with her duties as a mother and the matriarch of the family business, leaves Cynthia very little time for herself. She admits that something had to give and so she readily gave up social events, something she says she could easily live without. Cynthia is simple that way. Life under the spotlight is not her thing, even if her net worth is probably 10 times more than most socialites parading in the public scene. She is just happy to quietly do her work. On What Might Have Been Back in July 2009, the presidency was Manny Villar's to lose. His approval ratings were north of 60 percent, virtually unbeatable by any standard. I can only imagine how losing the elections and landing in third place must have felt. I asked Cynthia about how she dealt with the loss. She was, after all, Manny's rock, not only attending almost every sortie and press forum, but also attending to the endless backroom concerns of the campaign machinery. She was as much invested in the campaign as Manny was-physically, financially and emotionally. Cynthia admits that as early as March 2010, they already knew that the presidency had slipped from their hands. At that point, the entire Villar camp stopped fighting as hard as they did in the months prior, allowing inertia to take its course. True enough, victory was for Noynoy Aquino. Pragmatic as ever, Cynthia made a conscious effort to pick herself up, brush the dust from her shoulders, and move on. She wrote a book as a diversion-''Saving a River, Securing Livelihoods.'' The book narrates how the Villar Foundation revived the Las Piñas Zapote River and provided livelihood programs for the poor, using the trash and water lilies dredged from the river. Months later, no less than the United Nations cited the Villars with an award for best practices in water management, an honor they received in Zaragoza, Spain. This, to Cynthia, was the ultimate redemption-being sited by the U.N. for her work in the public arena. Still, no matter how practical or sensible the mind may be, the heart always has its own convictions. As Cynthia narrates how she dealt with the election loss through writing, tears inadvertently welled up in her eyes, something she tried to conceal. Moments later, it was just too much that it streamed down her cheeks. The pain she felt from the entire election debacle must have stung deep. It wasn't so much the losing that hurt her, Cynthia relates, but being tagged a puppet of the Arroyos.
 The ''Villaroyo'' moniker was, to Manny and Cynthia, the ultimate insult-considering that the Arroyos have become the poster children for corruption, greed and evil machinations. Cynthia feels it is unfair. After all, the Villars spent decades serving their constituents, with nary a scandal that even comes close to any of the Arroyo shenanigans.
Las Piñas has prospered under their watch and the couple continues to serve with dedication in their respective roles as a senator and congresswoman/philanthropist. Records even show that the Villars consistently defied the wishes of GMA on the numerous occasions they thought it compromised the people's interest. The ''Villaroyo'' tag was a demolition job that hit below the belt. True, there is no place for thin-skinned people in politics, but the mere fact that the episode still hurts Cynthia today tells me that she gives a damn. For me, I would rather have a politician who still cares about their reputation rather than one callous to the people's sentiment. What She Brings To The Senate What Cynthia brings to the table, if elected to the senate, is her impeccable work ethic, headstrong mission to address poverty, and her obsession to ensure the proper implementation of laws churned out by the legislature.
She laments how many of the enacted laws fail to serve its true purpose simply because they are not implemented or not implemented as designed.
She cites the Magna Carta for Women as an example of this. In it, there are stipulations that call for the education of women on the issue of reproductive health, as well as provisions that mandate the state to provide health care for gynecological issues. Had this law been implemented as it should, the contentious and expensive RH Bill would not have been necessary. The same holds true for many other laws that deal with taming our wieldy bureaucracy, improving our economic environment, and improving the delivery of social services. If elected, Cynthia vows to act as a watchdog to ensure that laws, duly funded by the state, are implemented efficiently.
She is the only senatorial bet determined to focus on the implementation side of legislation. As someone who has built the Villar empire from scratch alongside her husband, Cynthia brings with her both the experience and wherewithal to champion livelihood programs in the senate.
As mentioned earlier, she has made it her life's mission to help alleviate poverty in her capacity as a woman of means and public servant. She stresses the need to create more livelihood opportunities in the agricultural sector, as 70 percent of our impoverished countrymen belong to this group. Unfortunately, agriculture has shrunk to only 35 percent of our economic output. There is a need to provide our kababayans in the rural areas with both the know-how and resources to make a sustainable living out of agriculture. After all, she asserts, the national treasury is awash with cash-enough to finance 12 months of imports. ''I don't believe it is prudent to keep all the cash in treasury just to please the credit rating agencies,'' she says, asserting that part of it should be spent to alleviate the suffering of the people by way of livelihood projects. Cynthia has every intention to spearhead this cause in the senate.
Choose The Best Whoever is given the privilege to serve as Senator must be the best and brightest among us-experience- and education-wise. It is in their hands that the laws of the land rest and, consequently, the fate of the nation.
The reality is, the 12 we elect must compensate for some of the incumbent senators who count playing host in game shows and heroine to a few action flicks as their primary credentials. Cynthia is among the best of us. Her track record of success-in both the public and private domains-is impeccable. The woman also has a degree in Business Administration from the University of the Philippines and an MBA from New York University. Some of my regular readers know that I have only chosen two senatorial candidates so far-Ramon ''Jun'' Magsaysay and Mitos Magsaysay. I don't think I can fill a ticket of 12 from among the landscape of candidates. Most of them just don't make a compelling case for me. What's sure is that Cynthia Villar is one of my choices.
 Andrew is an economist, political analyst and businessman. He is a 20-year veteran in the hospitality and tourism industry. For comments and reactions, e-mail Follow Andrew on Twitter @aj_masigan.

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