Valencia City’s Azucena Huervas: from chapel leader to vice mayor

VALENCIA CITY  (MindaNews/24 July) —  As President of Valencia’s Association of Barangay Captains (ABC), she became the barangays’ representative to the City Council, but while present in most of the council sessions, she was the quiet one.

How she became the city’s second most powerful government official, Vice Mayor Azucena Huervas charges to faith in God and in herself, sincerity in service, and honesty.

The enterprising native from Concepcion, Iloilo was into buy and sell business in the then municipality of Valencia in the 1980s when she became parish president of the San Vicente Chapel in Brgy. Catumbalon.

In 1997, she was elected as barangay kagawad (village councilor) and in 2002 won as a barangay chair against what seemed a formidable foe, a candidate who had served a total of 32 years in the village.

The B.S. Agriculture graduate from Central Mindanao University is now warming her seat, replacing  Benjamin Verano, who died before his term of office ended.

Huervas says she least expects to be where she is now. Before Verano died, she had looked forward to retiring to look after her grandchildren.

When Mayor Leandro Jose Catarata first floated the possibility that she will take Verano’s place, she hid in their barangay.

She said her husband would not let her because they agreed to serve their family after spending years in public service. And she found, too, that they didn’t have enough funds to bankroll the 45-day campaign.

She did not know how to refuse the mayor’s offer.  But the clincher was when then Governor Jose Ma. R., Zubiri Jr. (now vice governor), made an unexpected visit and raised her hand in a gesture of endorsement in front of her constituents.

Huervas likens her vice mayoral post to that of presiding officer of  Brgy. Catumbalon, which she was from 2002. But while she was a chief executive in her village, she is now head of the legislative branch of her municipality.

She said as a city official, she needs to stand as a model, even to relatives who run in conflict with the law.

“I couldn’t just exempt them when they violate the law. It’s good the public would see that I mean it. I can put anyone to jail if they deserve it as I even do that to relatives,” she said of her experience as barangay chair.

The vice mayor pledged a city council that “sees eye to eye” with the city’s chief executive for the benefit of their constituents.

“We should run government like we run a home. The husband and wife must see eye to eye. If there is no harmony, the house will fail,” she added.

“If there is a mistake, it should be admitted. We can’t just fake it,” she said. As Catarata’s running mate in May 2010, she said she maintains good working relations with him.

But Huervas said she is having difficulty with staffing at the Sangguniang Panlungsod.

When she assumed office, there were only two regular employees left as the rest were job order personnel who were recalled in time for the new term of the mayor.

She vowed to work for the regularization of at least the key personnel at the legislative house so their jobs will not be co-terminus with the elected officials.

She said the city council is presently having problems with some aspects of the budget like the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).

But she noted that peace and order will be among the key issues city officials will face.

Huervas wants to promote honesty in public office.

She will chair the City Council’s oversight committee on good governance and anti-graft and corruption.

“I will closely watch graft and corruption. We will not tolerate any wrongdoing,” she said.

“Maybe we can bump into many foes, but that will not make us tolerate wrongdoing,” she said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)