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Opinion

Rights champion’s exit  

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

This week, I had the chance to meet with outgoing Cebu City Councilor Alvin Dizon during a consultation-workshop for advocacy-cum-capacity building peer support groups on anti-violence against women (VAW) and migrants’ rights.

Dizon’s office organized the event last June 21 and 22 in partnership with the Institute of Politics and Governance (IPG) and the UN Women Safe and Fair Philippines Programme.

I have always looked forward to every chance of meeting with Councilor Dizon because we often are on the same wavelength on matters of politics. We think in similar ways on how progressives and social democrats can navigate the world of “realpolitik” in the context of working patiently with a broad coalition toward reforms.

But unlike in 2019 at the beginning of Dizon’s comeback term as councilor, our gathering with other civil society and local government stakeholders this week took a quite somber mood.

We already know that Dizon lost in his reelection bid last May 9. He placed 12th in the election for councilors in First District (North) of Cebu City, four places shy from making it to the Magic 8 in the City Council slots allotted for the district.

I say the Cebu City Council lost a formidable advocate of women’s rights, veteran community and urban poor organizer, staunch environmentalist, and conscientious leader and ethical voice in politics.

But Councilor Dizon’s exit should not be the end of his work and advocacies. I know that he will just take a break for a while before deciding on what his next work will be. His quest for a City Council post has never been for anything about status and power, but merely to place him in a position to produce progressive legislation and be a bigger and effective voice in policy making.

I know this when I last visited his office in 2019. There I saw chairs around a big conference table, but I could not find a sitting councilor’s chair and desk. When I asked Dizon about this, he explained that it’s purposely designed that way to remind him that his position is only temporary. The most important thing is what the conference table serves and symbolizes --that is, to work alongside stakeholders and hear the people out toward the vision of making Cebu City a better place for everyone.

Dizon is still young and in his prime. It’s just unfortunate that today’s depreciating political culture affords no place for leaders like him. This should not be the end, though, of the experiment in liberal-progressive politics in an era of populist illiberal regimes. Politics is a long game, and those who truly advocate reforms and envision a better society should continue to work patiently in whatever capacity.

There are also, I believe, incoming city councilors who are up to the task of continuing, for example, the advocacy for women and migrants’ rights in the Cebu City Council.  Cebu City Vice Mayor Dondon Hontiveros is one.

Hontiveros, a professional basketball star prior to his stint in city politics, has shown a bold willingness to take up causes beyond what was assigned to him at the City Council prior to his ascension to the Vice Mayor’s Office by succession last year. He was chairman of the council's Committee on Scholarship Program and Committee on Games and Amusement, and vice chairman of the Committee on Youth and Sports Development.

On June 28, VM Hontiveros’ office will host a dialogue among Cebu City policy makers and members of the Babaeng BiyaHero Technical Working Group. The latter is composed of different women and migrants’ rights stakeholders in Cebu including civil society organizations and national line agencies.

VM Hontiveros’ office already participated in two previous activities of IPG and has committed in championing the anti-violence against women and migrants’ rights agenda in the incoming 16th Sangguniang Panlungsod. Hontiveros himself attended last June 9 the Convergence and Network Consultation Meeting on VAW and Migrants’ Rights organized by IPG.

One urgent work that needs attention is the formulation of Implementing Rules and Regulations for the Ordinance Providing for Coordinated Quality Services for OFWs of Cebu City which was authored by Dizon and approved August 25 last year.

In last Wednesday’s consultation-workshop, it was emphasized that a coordinated response for women and migrants in distress means that “every door is the right door.” A victim should be able to enter the system of services at any point, and not to be passed around from one agency to another.

ALVIN DIZON

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