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

VALENCIA CITY (MindaNews/11 June) — When she faced the public for the first time as city mayor on Monday, Azucena Huervas refused to call her rise to her present position destiny but a challenge and responsibility. She felt the same for her victory in 2010 as vice mayor, which she attributed to faith in God and in herself, sincerity in service, and honesty.

As then president of Valencia’s Association of Barangay Councils, she became its representative to the city council. But while she was present in most of the council sessions up to 2010, she did not often speak.

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

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

Huervas, a B.S. Agriculture graduate from Central Mindanao University, said she never expected to be where she is now. She had planned to retire from politics to look after her grandchildren.

During the 2010 elections, however, re-electionist vice mayor Benjamin Verano died while the campaign was still going on. And upon learning that Leandro Jose Catarata, who was also seeking re-election as mayor, wanted her to replace Verano as candidate, she hid in her barangay.

She said her husband would not let her run because they had agreed to serve their family after spending years in public service. Moreover, they didn’t have enough money to bankroll the 45-day campaign.

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

Huervas likened her being a vice mayor to that of being the village chair of Catumbalon from 2002. She said as a city official, she needs to stand as a model, even to relatives who may 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.

Huervas, in 2010, pledged a city council that “sees eye to eye” with the city mayor 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.

In her first press conference as mayor Monday, Huervas vowed to be consultative and work for transparent and accountable governance.

Back in 2010, Huervas had already noted that peace and order will be among the key issues city officials will face.

As vice mayor, she chaired the city council 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 then.

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