ANGELES CITY – “Kulang sa pagtanaw ng utang na loob.” That is how Angeles City Vice Mayor Ma. Vicenta “Vicky” Vega-Cabigting described mayoralty aspirant City Councilor Amos Rivera.
Speaking before Sangguniang Kabataan council members and chairpersons last October 28, Vega-Cabigting cautioned her young audience, whom she branded as future leaders of this city, on the importance of loyalty and a sense of gratitude – especially for those aspiring to a position in public service.
“I am often asked why I have stayed loyal to the Lazatins and my answer is always this – it’s because I have a sense of gratitude,” Vega-Cabigting said. “Marunong akong tumanaw ng utang na loob.”
The notion of ‘utang na loob’ or debt of gratitude is a prevalent value among Filipinos. Filipino psychology explains this is a reflection of the ‘kapwa’ orientation of shared personhood or shared self, which is at the core of the Filipino values system.
“I owe who I am as a public servant and as a Vice Mayor to my mentor in public service – Tatang Tarzan Lazatin,” Vega-Cabigting said, referring to the late Lazatin patriarch, former Pampanga First District Representative and three-time Angeles City Mayor Carmelo “Tarzan” Lazatin.
“I am very grateful to the Lazatins, and for that, I never turned my back on them,” Vega-Cabigting added. She said Rivera had also been mentored by the late Lazatin.
Rivera started his public service career in 1998 as Community Affairs Officer I when he was appointed by then Mayor Tarzan Lazatin as a casual employee of the Mayor’s Office. A year later, he was promoted to Community Affairs Officer II.
In 2002, he was given a permanent position as Community Affairs Officer II, before being promoted as Community Affairs Officer III in 2005.
Then a neophyte in the government, Rivera was given opportunity to serve as officer in charge of the Local Urban Poor Affairs and Housing Office (LUPAHO) when he was appointed by Lazatin in 2001, after his brother Atty. Willie Rivera ran for Pampanga First District Representative under Lazatin’s banner.
In 2006, Rivera was appointed by Lazatin as Executive Assistant III, a permanent position with Salary Grade 22 or equivalent to chief of office. Under the Lazatin administration, Rivera held his position as officer in charge of LUPAHO until 2007.
In 2013, Rivera ran under the Partido Abe Kapampangan – opposite the Lakas-CMD-Kampi of Lazatin.
At the time, Lazatin ran with only four councilors and no vice mayor as he did not want to go against Vega-Cabigting, who was running for Vice Mayor under the Abe Kapampangan banner with his blessing.
Vega-Cabigting said that during the last week of elections in 2013, Rivera’s family – particularly his older brother, Atty. Rivera – asked Lazatin to consider Rivera as the fifth councilor, giving Rivera access to the Lazatins’ machinery. As a result, Rivera landed in the 10th Council seat.
Rivera’s older brother, Atty. Rivera, is currently serving as the City Administrator of Lazatin’s son, incumbent Angeles City Mayor Carmelo “Pogi” Lazatin, Jr., whom Rivera is running against.“Sa ating Filipino importante ang marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan,” Vega-Cabigting added, “Importante ang tumatanaw ng utang ng loob. Paano mo sasabihing you are ready to lead the city kung ikaw mismo hindi mo alam saan ka nakatayo?”