May 1, 2022 (10:44 PM)

7 min read


PROGRESSIVE LEADERSHIP. Davao City 1st District Representative hopeful Mags Maglana, an activist and development worker, advocates for a progressive type of leadership with emphasis on championing women’s rights, magna carta on the informal economy, and solid waste management in her bid against incumbent Paolo Duterte. Photo by Sofia Roena Guan

From a student leader and activist to a development worker—now a Davao City 1st congressional seat aspirant.

Maria Victoria “Mags” Maglana, who worked for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in promoting peace and gender equality, now endeavors to become the Davao City 1st District Congresswoman.

She is one of the three candidates going up against Davao City’s Former Vice Mayor and incumbent 1st District Representative, Paolo “Pulong” Duterte.

Although only in this upcoming elections did she decide to run for office, she has already been exposed to numerous governmental practices as a consultant.

According to her blog, she has over 30 years of experience in “accompanying local governments and communities through capacity building, technical assistance, and direct support” locally, nationally, and internationally.

With this expertise at hand, she detailed that she has  “a good grasp, ‘di lang working grasp but a very intimate grasp of government and government processes.”

“I do policy research in support of [the] legislation, and I’ve been dealing with multi-stakeholders, politicians, our bureaucracy, civil service bureaucracy, other stakeholders, [and] international stakeholders. So kumbaga, para sakin, I’ve been dealing with the operational and [the]  back-and-side of governance,” she told Atenews, referring to her experience before her candidacy.

When asked about her reason for running, she simply stated that the people, especially of District 1, deserve better. 

“One, we deserve better choices in the elections. Two, we actually deserve better representation in the house of representatives,” Maglana said. 

However, she acknowledged that not everyone understands the role of congressmen and congresswomen in upholding the rights of the people. She shared that people would usually “serbisyo o proyekto” when asked about the work of congressmen and congresswomen.

“Unfortunately, sa’ting kultura ngayon, I think it’s an indication of gaano na kamuddled ang ating political awareness and education na marami sating botante na hindi nila naiintidihan ang papel ng pagiging kongresista,” she said.

“So kung representate ka, ibig-sabihin nun, dapat kilala mo yung kinakatawan mo, you know their kalagayan, kung sino sila, what their challenges and their aspirations are, and then you make sure, you get their input on the burning questions of the day,” she added.   

Her primary campaign revolves around the upgraded version of the infamous Philippine Politics 3Gs, which is originally ‘guns, goons, and gold.’

She cited her 5Gs, namely: (1) Governance, (2) Good quality of life, (3) Grassroots-oriented approach to peace and human rights, (4) Global solutions to disasters and climate change, and (5) Genuine post-pandemic economic recovery.

Meanwhile, Maglana, the only woman candidate, ranked first with 40.6 percent of the total votes in the Ateneo de Davao University’s (AdDU) Blue Vote 2022 In-Campus Survey for the 1st District Congressional Representative.

Humble beginnings 

Despite Maglana’s decorated background as a former AdDU Student Central Board president for two terms and student activist, she admitted that she was not initially inclined to activism and progressive activities ever since.

“When senator Ninoy Aquino was assassinated, the public perception was that the Marcoses was behind the assassination. In my class, I think I was the only one who did not believe that. I wanted to give Marcos the benefit of the doubt,” she stated, denoting her former conservative environment. 

In college, she recalled attending AdDU’s Freshman Christian Formation Program. She was introduced to diverse communities, such as the Badjao, noting that “dun nagsimula ‘yung being able to see beyond my immediate circumstance and those of my family, my personal experiences, and being a student.” 

However, what essentially sparked her devotion to activism was when she encountered a group of students questioning the University’s tuition hike, deeming it unreasonable.

She revealed that it was somewhat successful as they encouraged dialogues and received support from the teaching and non-teaching staff.

From then on, she became more acquainted with protest actions as she had seen the urban poor, Lumad, and workers among a few who actively contested for their ‘survival’ around the city. She called these experiences “paglalim at paglapad.”

“I also listened and talked to them, and then I understood that they were contesting because their rights and their bare survival were being affected by the policies and machinations of the Marcos administration, so literally, for some of them, it was a fight of survival,” she said.

She was also affiliated with the National Union of the Students in the Philippines and Buklod Atenista, where she mainly championed the Students’ Rights and Welfare.

“Sinasabi ko activism save my life. [It] saved me from my directionless life,” she described.

Projects for the 1st district 

If triumphant in this congressional seat bid, Maglana intends to prioritize addressing women’s discrimination, Magna Carta on the Informal Economy, and solid waste management as an industry.

She observed how women’s discrimination remains rampant despite the bills and laws, saying, “Inihain na ang mga bills na iyon nang matagal pero hindi siya umuurong, kasama rin dito yung SOGIE equality bill.”

For the Magna Carta on Informal Economy, Maglana also mentioned aiding micro and unregistered businesses in transitioning to a formal setup. 

“Kung walang suporta diyan, walang ding nabatas, I mean ibig-sabihin, hindi rin tayo makakapagbibigay ng sapat na specific responses na makakatuloy sa kanila whether that’s additional access to capital, additional training, or access to technology, or just this whole recognition na it’s not the big malls or the big businesses that make our economy robust,” she explained.

She further proposed the Solid Waste Management System as an industry, which she named “the next big thing in Davao” and is related to the concern of the informal economy.

“Parang, on the one hand, you’re addressing the very real problem of solid waste management, which is a score to all urban places in the country. That’s on the one hand. But on the other hand, they’re also doing it in a way na hindi big businesses ang nagdodominate at hindi rin ‘yung masasyadong maliit-liit na mga na parang, alam niyo ‘yun, they don’t take it [as] a dent in the problem,” she detailed.

Among other issues, she also expressed her purpose to tackle flooding, demolition, and transitional justice.

Reframing the game

As Maglana recognizes the laborious feat of running against a member of the most famous dynasty in Davao and confronting personality politics, she understands that her team must be more proactive in communicating their cause.

“Sabi ko, we can’t use the same metrics, we can’t use the same playbook because the dynasties wrote that, the traditional politicians wrote that playbook, and they perfected it,” she said. 

The 1st congressional seat hopeful conveyed after filing her certificate of candidacy that she first sought to break the perception that there are no other candidates than Congressman Pulong by spreading the news.

She then elucidated the responsibilities of the position she is running for to the people, revealing that “it’s not that easy because people don’t have the patience for that explanation.”

“Nagugulat rin ‘yung mga tao [sinasabi] na, ‘ay may kalaban pala?’ At palagi ko pong sinasabi na hindi ko po kalaban si Congressman Pulong kasi mahirap namang kalabanin. Nagkataon lang na sabay kaming tumakbo so katapat ko siya at bukod sa kanya, mayroon pang dalawang tumatakbo na lalaki,” she said.

Changing the narratives of the usual campaign machinery, Maglana came up with more ‘creative ways’ to amass the people’s votes, such as sikadcades/sikadravan or tricycle procession since motorcades and autocades are prohibited. She also emphasized the need for ‘sipag’ or perseverance, which she thinks the dynasts often overlooked.

“People remember my father; some people remember my father. But they don’t know me. So kailangang magpakilala at ang sipag na ‘yan ay literally, person by person, house by house, street by street, [at]  barangay by barangay campaign,” she said.

With the May elections fast approaching, Maglana tells the voters that it is high time for a woman to lead and provide inclusive policies in the first district after many years.

“So ngayon, mayroong seryosong babaeng tumatakbo sa kongreso, may plataporma, may kakayahan, may baruganan. Andam mubarog with you ug para kaninyo,” she concluded.

The article was previously published in the Election Issue 2022 of Atenews. Read it here:

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