Mayor Oca: San Fernando’s Icon of Proven Leadership, Experience

There is a popular English proverb that says “cometh the hour, cometh the man” – the idea that the right leaders will come to the fore during times of crisis. Former Congressman and Mayor Oscar “Oca” Samson Rodriguez is running for mayor anew in the City of San Fernando with a blazing track record that his opponents simply cannot match.

Since 2018, the opposition Liberal Party has urged Mayor Oca to become its mayoral bet on Pampanga’s vibrant capital city to continue his leadership for good governance and to reconsider his earlier decision not to run in the 2019 elections. He said: “You cannot just ignore the call, given the prevailing culture of politics vis-a-vis the need to re-emphasize transparency and good governance at least in the city where it was once upon a time the envy of many. The only reason why I am still not there is my promise to my family to be with them, after almost 38 years of absence as I immersed myself in the service to our people.”

At present however, the raging Mayor Oca — mantled in pink— echoing his undying revival battlecry “Magsilbi Tamu”, adhered to a monumental call for another historical chapter of our country not an observer but a participant in the four-cornered mayoral race by way of substitution last November 15. He has thrown his support behind opposition candidate Vice President Leni Robredo “because her platform centers on three pillars: Dignity, Care and Solidarity. In spite of his late filing of certificate of candidacy, Mayor Oca swiftly regained his political traction with a sweeping momentum that defied expectations, buoyed to emerge in the top tier of contenders. In Pampanga, at least, Mayor Oca’s beaming presence could dispel political dominion by other major players in the province who are endorsing other presidential bets like Bongbong Marcos.

“The hour” has now come again, with the COVID-19 wreaking havoc around the globe. There is no easy route through this crisis and its post-pandemic reeling effects. The Fernandinos cannot afford to be led by on-the-job trainees in the mayoral post because it remains to be seen whether the other candidates are capable of rising to the occasion with the appropriate response. Mayor Oca is the best choice and the only choice for the job. He is tailor fit to respond to a crisis that is much more than speeches. Still, his messaging and narrative skills can play a key role in obtaining public trust and cooperation because he believes essential information is the oil that greases an organization and keeps it running smoothly. I totally agree when he said, “Age doesn’t matter”, because crisis management is definitely not for introverts or Tiktok competition, or any type of sports tournament that requires physical strength and stamina.

Leadership abilities take time to develop and simply shine when given the right opportunity, but seasoned leaders like Mayor Oca has the grip and wisdom to make good, sound, and firm decisions and are able to predict the outcome of certain decisions due to vast experience, not easily swayed with trends and unexpected shifts because like Mayor Oca he banks on proven and effective measures in tackling or running the city.

Yes Mayor Oca is 76 years old but from what I see he is the only candidate who has the most energy around because when he filed his COC, akin to a spark plug, multi-sectoral support was immensely re-ignited, while a generation of young people knowing the fact that he has prioritized educational scholarships for poor but deserving students and summer program for employment of students during his incumbencies as mayor and congressman are really hopeful about his political comeback.

“I know for a fact that Mayor Oca is a man that every mayor in the Philippines should emulate for good governance and integrity. He is a man of deeds more than words… We need a Mayor like Mayor Oca because he changed the people’s mindset from corrupt government to a clean government by his good values and character… I voted for Mayor Oca because he is a good model to us, his constituents… A man of big heart who shares his blessings by way of granting scholarships to those who value education yet could not afford it… I voted for him many times because it is my way of thanking him somehow for being the best mayor in the world,” comments received in support of Mayor Oca’s recognition among the top 10 mayors in World Mayor 2005.

For years, I know for a fact he has always remained calm and maintains a sense of perspective. Whether natural disasters or national leadership crises, Mayor Oca is a reflection of effective leadership in disaster mitigation and crisis management. He kept things operating as normal as possible. During Pinatubo’s major eruptions when Pampanga was engulfed by rumbling lahar avalanche, Mayor Oca’s “sense making” has offered rapid recognition of the dangers and the necessary infrastructure and procedures to quickly gather data for evacuation, relief, rehabilitation and resettlement of displaced families.

Empirically, when it comes to taking action, Mayor Oca can exactly evaluate and assess how much he can rely on public and private sector cooperation through persuasion to limit the damage of an emergency. Effective crisis leadership cannot be brought about by simply doing the right thing on the ground. Instead, Mayor Oca is familiar in crafting a good narrative, strategic planning and implementation that helps clarify the problem and unite the Fernandinos to attain the “permissive consensus” that is essential to make landmark decisions.

His sterling track record will bear him out. Mayor Oca has served as City Mayor of San Fernando, Pampanga from 2004 until his maximum third term expired in 2013. He was elected president of the League of Cities of the Philippines, chairman of the Regional Development Council of Central Luzon and vice president of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines. He was also the founding president of the group MAYAP (Movement for the Advancement of Young Advocates of Pampanga). He also served as Representative of the 3rd District of Pampanga from 1987–1992 and again from 1995-2004. He authored several laws, including: Republic Act 8990, “An Act that Converted the Municipality of San Fernando, Pampanga into a Component City that is now known as the City of San Fernando; Republic Act 9225, The Dual Citizenship Law providing for Overseas Filipinos to Participate in Political Processes; Republic Act 9211, The Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003; and Republic Act 9173 which seeks to strengthen the Nursing Profession in the Philippines and lead prosecutor during the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada. He has also authored bills that seek prohibition of political dynasties and amendments to the illegal discharge of firearms.

Mayor Oca obviously has a strong commitment to continue to serve the Fernandinos. His past experience and leadership skills, developed over years of life experiences dealing with difficult issues and natural disasters, has transformed him into the right local chief executive “plus crisis manager” to beat the odds and overcome the struggles of adversity as he did in the past, the present and tomorrow.