Quezon Gov. David Suarez: A chip off the old block

FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas - The Philippine Star

People  associate Quezon province with the Suarez family, two generations of which have hogged the political limelight. Critics raise their eyebrows at the reign of a “political dynasty”. But there is no law defining the term. And some wrongly branded have proven themselves capable of governance.

Right now, it’s  Gov. David Suarez, at the young age of 39, who is setting forth an exemplary career path in local governance.

The governor fits the description  “a chip off the old block.”  His father   is incumbent Minority Floor Leader Danilo Suarez, who had been an undefeated congressman of Quezon’s third district since 1992, and  had been replaced by his wife Aleta in 2001 on account of the three-term limit mandated by law.

After his wife’s term ended, Suarez again served for three consecutive terms from 2004 to 2013. On January 16, 2012, he took over as Minority Floor Leader, replacing Edcel Lagman, who had to step aside in adherence to a term-sharing agreement.

Suarez again ran unopposed in last May’s election. He vied for the Speakership, but lost to pro-administration Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez.  Eventually, he was voted as Minority Floor Leader last July 27.

Enter the young David, one of five children, whom we met for the first time recently.   The governor, who  goes by the moniker Jayjay, was only 24 years old when he was initiated into politics, under the National United Party.  He was  elected as a municipal councilor of Unisan, Quezon (2001-2004), then as vice governor of the province (2004-2007). He  was eventually voted  as governor in 2010, re-elected in 2013, and re-elected anew by an overwhelming landslide last May.

In the interim, he had his hands full serving as assistant secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in charge of the River Basin Control Office, and concurrent DENR program manager for South Luzon (2007-2009).

Presently, the governor’s  wife, Anna Marie Villaraza-Suarez, has her fair share of legislative work at the Lower House where she sits as a representative of the Party-list ALONA, acronym for Alliance of Organizations, Networks and Associations seeking to uplift the Filipino family.

Governor  Suarez finished his BS, major in economics, philosophy and politics,  at the  University of Asia and the Pacific. He took  courses  on local legislation and local governance and public management, at the University  of the Philippines, and a course in public administration and politics at the international Academy of  Leadership, Gummers Bach, Germany.

He told us he says he has a clear vision of his goals as chief executive of his  province.  He has focused his attention on health services, education, and agriculture. He recently launched “Lingap Kalusugan Para sa Barangay” program meant to strengthen the delivery of health services to his constituents, especially the underprivileged sector through the distribution of “health coupons” with specified monetary value.

The coupons can be used to avail of health services in public hospitals, to buy medicines and surgical supplies, as well as to secure laboratory services, radiology services, dialysis, rehabilitation medicine and other medical needs.

The program, according to the governor, also addresses challenges involving inequity in access to health services.

“To address this imbalance, it is imperative to design an innovative health program wherein medicines, health facilities, supplies and other basic health requirements will be provided through health coupons,” he stressed.

Suarez formed a management team, headed by the provincial administrator as chairman, that will formulate, adopt and establish guidelines for the implementation of the health coupons.

His performance as chief executive of the province is noteworthy. Under his  stewardship,  Quezon recently received this year’s Green Banner Award for the Provincial Government in Region 4A, for implementing an  effective and better nutrition program that led to a significant decrease  in the malnutrition rate among children from 17.9 percent in 2009 to 10.7 percent in 2015.

The Green Banner Award is the highest honor given to local government units (LGUs) for  excellent implementation and management of nutritional programs, by the joint coordination of the Department of Health (DoH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and National Nutrition Council (NNC).

Jayjay indeed, continues to follow his shining political star, inspired by commendations and citations along the way. His trophies include an award as the 2013 Most Outstanding Governor of the Philippines by the Association of Local Social Welfare and Development Officers of the Philippines Incorporated, the Bakas Parangal ng Kagitingan from the Office of the Civil Defense IV-A and Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council IV-A; and nomination of his healthcare program dubbed Lingap Kalusugan sa Barangay or Serbisyong Suarez Health Coupon program, as a grand finalist in the 2012 Galing Pook Award.

In 2014, Quezon won an unprecedented two Galing Pook Awards. It was also cited for having planted two million mangrove trees in one day.

Where his star would lead the governor to, it’s too early to say.  To be sure,  he already casts a giant shadow on the political terrain in local governance, along a path trail blazed by his father.

*     *    *

The latest 5-star hotel in town is Conrad Manila, whose amazing “iconic” architecture takes one’s breath away. The magical atmosphere  is further enhanced by the geometric glass Christmas tree created by prominent artist  Impy Pilapil, and the decors in dazzling colors.

Conrad Manila unveiled its Yuletide-season themed “Christmas Cruise,” which includes a “holiday staycation” at any of the 347 rooms, festive dining at international and local restaurants, splurging on unique gift boxes brimming with gourmet delights, shopping at well-appointed boutiques, and a wellness spa. To share the joy of the season, Conrad Manila’s Carey the Carabao goes for sale for charity, particularly for the scholarship of underserved children of Baseco in Tondo.

At the Christmas launch, the guests of honor included Austrian Ambassador Dr. Josef  Mullner, Sen. Loren Legarda, Pasay City Mayor Antonino Calixto, and DOT Usec Ma. Lourdes Japson. Also lending their presence were Mrs. Felicidad Sy;  director and chair of the executive committee of SM Prime Hans Sy,  and SM officers Elizabeth Sy  and Peggy Angeles.

Especially imported for the occasion, the world-renowned Vienna Boys Choir  provided a masterly rendition of two musical numbers, “A Spotless Rose,” and “Mary Walks Among the Thorns”. Conrad Manila  GM Harald Feurstein, said, “We commit to give back (sponsors’)  generosity to our people and to the community we serve. Such is the essence of Christmas which we live by every day.”

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