By Beting Laygo Dolor, Contributing Editor
When he was elected mayor of Pasig City last year, ending a decades old political dynasty in the process, 29-year-old Victor Ma. Regis ‘Vico’ Sotto hit the ground running.
The son of comedian Vic Sotto and actor-TV host Coney Reyes, the young mayor cleaned up the city both figuratively and literally.
In the last couple of weeks, however, his already bright political star went into overdrive, his actions to minimize the pain of President Rodrigo Duterte’s metro-wide lockdown order drawing praise from various quarters.
Sen. Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson, for one, said it was too bad Sotto was only 29, meaning he is still too young to run for president two years from now.
“if there is any consolation, he is the best gift ever to Pasig City,” Lacson said last week.
Sotto’s pro-poor agenda coupled with maverick executive abilities were shown last November when he was told by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) that he could not pressure the Regent Food Company to drop charges against 23 employees who allegedly committed physical injuries during a strike.
Sotto stood his ground, threatening to close down the food company if it pushed through with its suit against its employees. Regent Food backed down.
Most recently, the same agency told Sotto to be “creative” in dealing with the Covid-19 lockdown measures after asking the national government to allow tricycles to transport frontline health workers and the sick.
How did Mayor Sotto and his local government unit (LGU) do it?
The city government purchased three units of DJI MG–1P octocopter drones with 10-liter payload at PHP1 million (US$20,000) each. The drones, designed to spray pesticides in farms, are now being tested in Pasig City to sanitize public areas.
Pasig City Hall and Pasig City General Hospital had sanitation tents installed on their entrances with the attendants in full personal protective equipment (PPE) even before the President’s “community quarantine” was implemented.
The quarantine pass was waived if residents travel within Pasig. According to Sotto, the exemption of strict home quarantine was made clear. Getting entry passes in barangay halls was time consuming and person-to-person contact would not be avoided, said Sotto.
Last March 18, Mayor Sotto pleaded with the national government to exempt tricycles from the Public Transportation Ban amid the community quarantine. The request was to ensure that medical frontliners without cars could go to work and patients without means to private transportation could be taken to hospitals or clinics.
Sotto’s request was denied because social distancing would be difficult in tricycles according to Cabinet Sec. Karlo Nograles. The Mayor then became the target of pro-Duterte cyber trolls.
Mocha Uson Blog posted on Facebook the same day, “Eto yung sinasabi ko eh. Kaya ng ibang lugar bakit eto si Mayor Sottopabebe?” After the post a simultaneous “Vico bashing” was scheduled by the troll armies.
The Mayor’s supporters returned the favor by doing a mass FB reporting of Uson’s page as “Hate Speech”. The site was temporarily unavailable on March 18.
Uson denied the allegations and said that she had nothing against the Mayor and the hateful post was written by someone else.
In the middle of the health crisis, people not just from social media showed support for Sotto. When his request for tricycle ban be lifted was rejected, Global Electric Transport partnered with Pasig LGU and lend two COMET electric buses, a 20-seater electric vehicle to transport medical workers and city personnel within the vicinity. Dahlia Hotel owners volunteered their establishment to be a quarantine area for people under monitoring and investigation. The hotel can accommodate 300 persons and the city government will only pay water and electricity usage.
During a presscon last week, Duterte warned that all local government units must follow the rules set by the national government, or else. This was seen as a dig at the Pasig mayor whose stock had risen to the extent that he is being hailed as a future presidential contender.
That Sotto has become a rock star, especially to Pasig City residents has become clear. Insult him over social media and his defenders will quickly and fiercely come to his defense.
Pasig residents say it is because they believe in Sotto’s sincerity, while women of all ages swoon over the still single mayor, now seen as one of the country’s top eligible politicians to watch.