Saturday, April 24, 2010

QC Councilor Joseph ‘SEP’ Juico leads the new generation in changing the conduct of politics in Quezon City

The Philippine political landscape has been littered with allegations of corruption, scandals, shady deals and muckraking of politicians. This coming May 10, many Filipinos will troop to the polls desiring to change Philippine politics and rid it of its ugliness. In Quezon City, a District 1 councilor, by the name of Joseph Juico, is changing the way local politics is being conducted, one step at a time.

A graduate of De La Salle University-College of Saint Benilde with a AB Human Resources Management degree, he also took up AB Political Science at Missouri Southern State University. Coming from a prominent family associated with Ninoy and Cory Aquino, SEP, as he prefers to be called, felt the tug of public service at a young age. When his father, Philip Ella “Popoy” Juico, former Agrarian Reform secretary to President Cory Aquino and Philippine Sports Commission chairman and mother, Margarita “Margie” Penson-Juico, also former Appointments secretary to President Aquino, brought him to the funeral of slain martyr, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, everything changed for the young politician.

“I will not forget how Senator Ninoy’s face looked that day inside his casket. My father told me that Doña Aurora, Ninoy’s mother, wanted him to be buried exactly as he was killed on the Tarmac, with his bloodied clothes, to show Filipinos that there are people who will go to great lengths just to kill democracy in our country.” From this experience, SEP wondered how it was to serve the country in his own little way.
Spending his childhood during the time of Cory Aquino’s presidency, he grew up knowing what it’s like to work in the government. His parents instilled in his brothers and sisters that serving the country is a big responsibility.

When he was old enough to hold public office, SEP was elected as a Sangguniang Kabataan official. His first foray in local politics taught him many things. He prioritized the youth, started to have a grasp of the problems facing the residents of Quezon City, and dreamed of serving them in a larger capacity.

It was an uphill climb for SEP when he first ran as a local Councilor in 2004. He nearly ran as an independent candidate, had it not been for her “Tita Cory’s” trust. In a gesture, which SEP remains thankful for to this day, the former president called up Mayor Sonny Belmonte and vouched for his skill, intelligence, and capability. This call landed him on Mayor Belmonte’s line-up for councilors that, he admits, gave him the needed political grounding and machinery to win.

Upon assuming office, he immediately buckled down to work. Running under the platform of Serbisyo, Edukasyon and Pag-asa, whose initials are identical to his nickname, Councilor SEP proceeded to initiate and institute projects crucially beneficial to Quezon City people. Among these are skills training for Quezon City residents to arm them with skills needed to have their own small businesses; Barangay Pautang which provide the residents the needed capital to start a small business; Oplan Linis and Anti-Dengue Drive for the environment; Food Fortification and Malunggay Drive for public health; Eye Refraction for Senior Citizens; and Medical and Dental Programs for those without access to medical services. His father also encouraged him to set-up projects involving sports, which led to his putting together a set of activities called the “Sports Enhancement Program” which, again, has the acronym SEP. The program supports basketball, boxing, and fencing. “Recently,” Councilor Juico proudly says, “my scholars in fencing have been making our country proud by bringing home medals from different international competitions.”

In addition, his legislative performance as one of the youngest public servants in Quezon City for the past two terms has been outstanding. He authored the Quezon City Youth Development Council (YDC), one of the first YDCs in Metro Manila, which gave voices to the youth and provided them with active participation on matters that concern them. He also authored the creation of the Quezon City Sikap Buhay and Cooperative Center, which further strengthened the role of cooperatives in empowering the Quezon City residents on an economic level. When asked what was his most significant contribution as a legislator, SEP answered without hesitation, “the Reproductive Health Ordinance which promotes responsible parenthood.” The passing of the Ordinance, a major achievement for a local government unit, was one of the most unforgettable experiences of his life as a public servant.

He says with pride: “I got all sorts of criticism and pressure, some of them from concerned relatives and friends, most of them from the Catholic Church. The pressure was such that some of my projects which do not have anything to do with the ordinance were affected.” SEP acknowledges the full support given to him by Mayor Belmonte and the rest of the Quezon City council. He explains, “When people were telling me to back down, I prayed and deliberated on it, but stood my ground. I kept thinking of all the people I’ve talked to who wanted access to information on how to take care of their children and their health. Luckily, I have the support of the local government and I have proven that once public officials joined together for a common cause of trying to improve the plight of others, then we can achieve our goals of empowering people and giving them choices.” This earned him the title of “honorary woman” from various women’s rights groups. His most recent contribution is upholding the “Child and Youth Welfare Act” in response to his vision of protecting the children.

For all his legislative work, Councilor Juico was awarded the “Manuel L. Quezon Bantayog Award” for Outstanding Councilor in 2004, 2005 and 2007, the “Kagalingan sa Huwarang Batas Award” given by the Quezon City Press Club and the Office of the Vice Mayor. Last year, he was invited to represent the country in the United Nations International Conference on Reproductive Health held in Nepal because of his commitment to women’s rights.

Now on his third term and supporting the Liberal Party’s slogan of “Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap,” SEP is still running on the same platform, but with a different approach. The death of her Tita Cory, similar to the death of Sen. Ninoy Aquino, has once again affected him on a deeper level. “I walked with Sen. Noynoy Aquino from Manila Cathedral to Manila North Cemetery together with millions of Filipinos and my Yellow Cap Boys. I could feel everyone’s grief and their common call for change. I feel that it was another revolution on the part of the Filipinos. We have had enough of all these corruption, these scandals which did nothing to help us improve our condition,” he recalls.

SEP believes that change should come from each of us because it is only through inner change that we can achieve empowerment. “People and government should work together towards a common goal of uplifting social conditions. Hindi pwedeng isang side lang ang kumikilos [It won’t do when only one side is at work],” he postulates, “the first EDSA revolution was not won just by the Church or the military . . . we won that because institutions and the people came together to say no to a dictator.”

As part of his commitment to empower his constituents, he established the SEP Movement and launched it in August. The SEP (which stands for Sama-Samang Epektibong Pagkilos) movement is a socio-political undertaking that advocates active citizenship in the spirit of volunteerism and solidarity for the development of District 1 in Quezon City and the empowerment of its citizens. SEP explained that the idea for the movement was inspired by the spirit of EDSA and the ideals of active citizenship, democracy, and solidarity for social change.

Happily married to Trish Chua, Councilor Juico hopes to add “being a good husband and a good father to their future children” to his list of accomplishments. “Trisha has always been supportive of my career as a public servant and deeply understanding of the fact that not only am I married and fully committed to her, but I am also ‘married’ and ‘committed’ to the people of my district,” he adds with a smile.

As a responsible leader coming from a well-known and trusted family in Quezon City, Councilor Joseph “SEP” Juico is seen as a symbol of hope. Hope, which springs from a promise of change, transparency, and good governance. In the midst of political scandals and corruption, a trusted leader who is against corruption and will not work for personal interest is what this country needs. As a hands-on leader, Joseph SEP Juico seems to fit the bill.

Come election time, when a Quezon City voter shades the number 15 on the ballot, a new generation of politics will rise.

Why Councilor Joseph Juico prefers to be called SEP

More than just being a preferred nickname, SEP also stands for Councilor Joseph Juico’s platform of governance that he has been successfully advocating for the past two terms.

SEP stands for Serbisyo, Edukasyon, Pag-asa (or Pangkabuhayan, when talking about his livelihood projects), which has been at the core of his vision for the residents of District 1 in Quezon City.

When asked why he decided to zero in on these three important issues, SEP explains, “When I first won as a Sangguniang Kabataan official, I took note of the common problems facing the residents. One is the lack of projects which pertain to basic social services like health, education, and livelihood. Second, I found out that not only do the people need these projects to help them improve their standard of living, but they also need someone to inspire them to empower themselves. I am a firm believer that hope is the one thing that can push a person to continue fighting and improving oneself. As they say, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.

Indeed SEP Juico has a lot riding on his name. SEP is the third child of Philip “Popoy” Ella Juico, the late President Cory Aquino’s Agrarian Reform secretary, and Margarita “Margie” Penson Juico, President Aquino’s Appointments secretary. His lineage has brought with it the responsibility of keeping the family name synonymous with good leadership, clean politics and good governance.

So far, SEP has indeed lived up to his family name. In his two terms as a councilor, SEP has successfully instituted projects relevant to his constituents’ needs. These range from skills training to micro-finance, to handing out textbooks to public school students, to providing scholarships for teachers, to partnering with private businesses and to organizing computer training workshops.

Recently, his advocacies have extended to taking up the cudgels for oppressed women and children. His firm and principle stand on responsible parenthood and informed choice was hailed as a turning point in the fight for women’s rights. SEP was sent to attend the United Nations Conference on Reproductive Health in Nepal to share his experiences as a local legislator in trying to get the ordinance passed despite the controversy surrounding it.

SEP has also spoken against violence against children and has supported the Child and Youth Welfare Act. His SEP (Sama-samang Epektibong Pagkilos) movement is a grassroots organization composed of vendors, transport, senior citizens, youth, women, people’s organizations, and other empowered groups, and is similar to what propelled Barack Obama to the US presidency.

According to SEP, he wanted an umbrella organization which will demonstrate to District 1 residents the value of volunteerism and self-reliance on their way to becoming empowered citizens.

Running for his last term, SEP is not resting on his laurels. “Even though I have already initiated and accomplished the goals I had set out when I first ran, I feel that there is still much to do,” he muses.
Aside from trying to help people’s lives better, SEP feels that it is also important for public officials to remain symbols of hope… that they should give the people a reason to trust their government, “There is so much that needs to be done in order to restore the faith of the people on public servants. The scandals . . . the graft and corruption charges . . . all these have tainted the government. It would be a lot of hard work on our end, but I welcome this challenge because I think the people deserves better”.

SEP’s all-out support for Sen. Noynoy Aquino’s presidency is his first step towards realizing his goal of having a transparent, democratic, and honest government.

So what’s in a name? Apparently, according to Joseph SEP Juico, a lot!

By Cherish Brillon for the Manila Times

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