Bernardo M. Villegas
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A Young LGU Official’s Story (Part 1)

             Last August 26, 2023, I was privileged to hear one of the first graduates of the CRC College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) deliver a Commencement Address to over 400 graduates of the University of Asia and the Pacific.  I am referring to the young Governor of Bataan, Enrique Garcia III, who was one of the first to enroll in a fledgling college of which I was the first Dean way back in 1989. As first and foremost an educator, I could not help but rejoice listening to a biographical account of the very successful journey of Joet from a fresh graduate major in Bachelor of Arts in General Humanities with specialization in Political Economy to one of the most accomplished LGU officials today.  I want to share with my readers, especially the centennials who are still in their twenties, the content of Joet’s speech in order to inspire them to consider joining the Government at some point in their career.  Despite all the notorious labels generally assigned to Philippine Government officials which Joet enumerated in his talk (corrupt, authoritarian, incompetent, oppressive, tyrannical, undemocratic, inefficient, dishonest, totalitarian, bureaucratic, biased, unaccountable, unresponsive, nepotistic, despotic, etc. etc.) some of the recent college graduates should heed the advice that was contained in the young Governor’s Address.  As evidenced by his own experiences, much good can still be attained at the LGU level, despite all the odds.

            He started by reassuring the graduating students that in 1994 when he graduated, like most young people in their early twenties, he did not know what he wanted to do with his life.  He was not sure of the career path he would follow or how he would make a living and where life would bring him. He then made reference to the famous Greek philosopher, Socrates, reflecting the advantages of studying the humanities as a foundation for any professional career.  He reminded the audience that one of his Philosophy professors was the late Rev. Father Joseph de Torre, who influenced the lives of numerous students during the founding years of the University of Asia and the Pacific.   According to Joet, Fr. De Torre gave a lot of importance to the Socratic dictum:  “I know that I know nothing.”  Out of the abundance of lessons he learned in life, the wise man Socrates still recognized his own ignorance.

            It was with this humble recognition that he knew nothing that Joet said he decided to plunge and venture into the professional world, joining five other young people in a startup called Technistock.  Their business provided the local stock market with a service that is similar to that of Bloomberg.  Their timing was perfect because during that period of the early 1990s, the business world was experiencing the rise of personal computers (together with the software and internet revolution).  Their youth did not deter them from offering to bankers, stockbrokers and investment managers vital software and data services. Their entrepreneurial spirit made them expand their network and learn from the best players/minds in the stock market.  What started as a very unstable first job quickly paralleled the success stories of legendary entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  Joet and his partners were enjoying themselves in their pioneering business.  They were not only making profits but more importantly they loved their job.

            After ten years in Technistock, a personal circumstance intervened to change the career path of Joet.  His father, Enrique Garcia Jr. (who was a student of mine at De La Salle College in the early 1960s) had been in public service in the province of Bataan since 1987.  Joet was asked by his dad to get involved in implementing some of the local government’s programs in the province of Bataan.  Joet admitted in his speech that he was not cut out for politics because he is fundamentally a shy and introverted person.   He nevertheless acquiesced to his father’s appeal for help.  After accompanying his dad in his political sorties for over a year, Joet decided to take the plunge into politics by running for mayor in one of the towns of Bataan in 2004.  He lost the race. But, as he admitted, this failure did not bother him because he was not attached to the position and felt that he had nothing to lose.  It was not difficult for him to swallow his pride and charge everything to experience.  Seeing that his father needed his help as Governor of Bataan, Joet continued for the next three years to help him out with sundry tasks.  In 2007, Joet ran again for Mayor of Balanga City and finally won.  Since then, he has been in public service in one elected position or another.

            Joet’s initiation into public office was not a walk in the park.  He admitted that when he was inaugurated as Mayor of Balanga City in June 2007, he was quite nervous and serious doubts about how his public life would turn out.  Questions hounded him: “Am I ready for this… will I be effective…how do I deal with the responsibilities?  For the first few months, I would experience stomach aches during meetings due to the stress of the job.”  I can testify personally to his slow transformation from a shy individual into a public figure.  Some time at the beginning of his first term as Mayor of Balanga, I accompanied my late mother in making a sentimental journey to Bataan.  Her first assignment in the early 1930s as a recently qualified dentist was in the town of Dinalupihan.  With my sister Rina, we toured various towns in Bataan and was a special guest of the Mayor of Balanga, Joet Garcia.

At that time, we were met by a very amiable and gentle LGU official.  It was obvious, though, that as he walked into a crowded restaurant where he invited us  for lunch, he was far from being the back slapping, hand-shaking and outspoken figure typical of a Filipino politician.  He kept his reserve and protected his privacy.  Seeing him deliver the Commencement Address last August 26, 2023, he has obviously gone a long way in gaining confidence and panache as a public figure.  As he himself admitted in the Commencement speech, his having so many doubts in his new position as an elected official turned out to be a blessing in disguise for a neophyte like him.  Being uncertain of how things were supposed to be done in his new position motivated him to immerse himself at the level of the barangay or community.  Referring to Socrates again, he said “I will seek knowledge and wisdom from the very people I serve.”  Touche!  He just uttered the first principle to be followed in governing:  the Principle of Subsidiarity.  Learn from what can be done effectively and efficiently by the lowest units of society, starting with the family. What can be done at the lower level should not be taken over by higher units, least of all by a dictatorial State! To be continued.