In a sense, Vilma “Ate Vi” Santos, 63, and Richard “Goma” Gomez, 50, are first-timers. It’s true that Ate Vi has served three terms as Mayor of Lipa City (with an impressive record, I should say) and three terms as Governor of Batangas (third term ends on June 30) but it’s the first time that she’s serving as representative of the newly-formed lone district of Lipa City, running under the Liberal Party.
On his fifth try, Goma has finally won…as the Mayor-elect of Ormoc City (under the National People’s Coalition, and endorsed by presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte), garnering 53,234 votes against those of incumbent Mayor Edward Codilla’s 44,453. It was Mayor Codilla who beat Goma by a margin of 3,000 votes when they ran against each other in 2013. Before that, Goma ran as first nominee of party-list MAD (Mamamayang Ayaw Sa Droga) in 2001 but the group was disqualified by the Supreme Court. In 2007, he lost his bid for the Senate.
Actually, it’s a “conjugal” (if you may call it that) victory for both Ate Vi and Goma. Ate Vi’s husband, Ralph Recto (also with LP) was reelected Senator and Goma’s wife, Lucy Torres, reelected Congresswoman of Ormoc City under the Liberal Party. It was Lucy who replaced Goma when he ran for the position in 2010 but was disqualified for lack of residency.
Funfare talked to Ate Vi and Goma separately the other day.
Here’s Ate Vi who said she’d rather be called Cong Vi…or Congee (joke!) than Congresswoman Vi:
Have you had time to rest after the grueling campaign?
“Congee” Vi: “Not yet. The other day (May 10), I was at the Kapitolyo where I was proclaimed. I also took to social media to thank the Lipeños. But I will be okay as soon as I shall have taken a two-day rest. Enough na ‘yon for me to recover.”
What was the difference between the campaign from when you ran for Mayor and then for Governor?
“It was easier now because I covered only the 72 barangays of Lipa. But during my terms as Mayor and as Governor, all of 18 years, nalibot-libot ko na ang buong Batangas. There are now six districts in Batangas and my campaign covered only the lone district of Lipa, bagong distrito. Mas direkta ang kampanya.”
Wasn’t it nerve-wracking since Ralph also had to campaign nationally?
“Well, it really affected us especially since Ralph also had his own campaign schedule. He also found time to campaign for me kasi mayroon akong katapat, unlike in some previous campaigns when I was unopposed. So he missed campaigning for himself in some provinces.”
Good thing that Ralph has made it to the Magic 12 senatorial line-up.
“Oo naman! Even if you are No. 11 or No. 12, you do the same work and you get the same salary. You know, I’m really grateful to Ralph kasi kahit paano, pababayaan niya ang trabaho niya pero hindi niya ako pinabayaan sa pagtakbo ko from the time I ran for mayor and then for governor.”
What would be the changes in your schedule now that you are a congresswoman?
“My work as ‘Congee’ will be in Manila but my office will still be in Lipa. The sessions will be Monday to Wednesday and during the break from Congress, I will be coming and going between Manila and Lipa. The work of a mayor and governor is 24/7, but the work of a congresswoman is more maluwag because mayroon recess.”
So in the meantime rest ka muna from showbiz?
“Same pa rin. I might do one movie every two years, every three years.” (Her last movie was Star Cinema’s Everything About Her.)
But how do you think will the work be different?
“The work of a mayor and a governor is executive. But this time, it will be legislative. Ang nakasanayan ko executive. But I have had some kind of training in legislative work because mayroon akong Sanggunian. And here’s where Ralph will come in. He said that he would help me on some aspects. He will be my mentor, my tutor. That’s where Ralph is good at…a legislator…since 1992.”
There’s another first-timer in Congress, Geraldine Roman of Bataan, the transgender who has also just been proclaimed.
“Yes, I read about her in the papers. I saw her on TV.”
If she filed a bill for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender), would you support her?
“Sure! Ever since, I’ve been close to the LGBT. I’ve been supporting from way, way back.”
Any other bills that you would file?
“My concerns are those about women and children, and also about Local Government Units (LGUs)…yung mga kailangan ng mga probinsya, ng mga bayan at mga barangay. In my 18 years as public servants, I have witnessed the problems of the LGUs, so I would fight for them once I am in Congress.”
* * *
And here’s Goma:
How was your “morning-after” feeling?
“Triumphant! Tama lahat ang nasa platform ko.”
When did you realize that you were winning?
“Lucy and I started monitoring the canvassing right after the voting closed. Halfway through the canvass, I felt that I was winning. Landslide kami in several barangays.”
It’s your fifth try at politics and you never thought of giving up…
“…wala sa vocabulary ko ang giving up, wala sa nature ko ang sumuko. Even in my acting career, I never give up. I got nominated eight times before I won Best Actor. What’s important is perseverance.”
How did you prepare for the campaign?
“Organization is very important. Yung Star Power-Star Power na yan hindi puede; it is not enough. You really have to know what the people need, kung ano ang kailangan at problema ng bawat barangay. You have to be organized down to the barangay level. There are 110 barangays in Ormoc.”
I guess you know Ormoc City (and the surrounding barangays) like the lines on your palm.
“Oo naman. The people of Ormoc have seen the kind of work that Lucy and I have been doing. Maayos at matino.”
You and Lucy worked hard to put Ormoc back on its feet after it was badly hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda.
“That helped people see how hard Lucy and I were working. Several friends came to our rescue, one of them Ben (Chan) who donated several fishing boats. Ang laki ng tulong ni Ben.”
Have you extended a hand of reconciliation to your opponents?
“Oh yes. Even before the election was over, I did that already. After the elections, we should go back to being friends again. Ganyan talaga dapat, eh.”
I remember that you took up a course in Public Administration preparatory to your going into public service. And recently, you were among the Proficiency Awardees at the 37th Commencement Exercises at the University of Perpetual Help…Best in Master’s Thesis (Master in Business Administration).
“I never stop studying, I don’t stop learning. Every time I have free time, aral ako nang aral. Even in showbiz, I make it a point to study my role long before shooting starts. I also see to it that I take courses if I feel that I need to.”
So you use the work ethic that you learned in showbiz in your work as a public servant.
“Correct. Pag sinabing we start work at 8 o’clock, dapat before 8 o’clock ready na tayo.”
What are your three priority projects?
“No 1 is peace and order. No. 2 is tourism. No 3 is for Ormoc to be business-friendly.”
What can tourists see in Ormoc?
“One of them is our Lake Danao, parang Taal Lake. It’s very beautiful.”
What was the best lesson that you learned during the campaign?
“Aside from the reality that Star Power is not enough…and perseverance? Well, that any David can trample a Goliath.”
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