PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAR CONCENGCO

Mention Fort Bonifacio to anyone and it becomes immediately synonymous with Bonifacio Global City (BGC), a highly urbanized and rapidly growing business and commercial district within the barangay. Despite grabbing headlines due to its high profile, BGC is not the entire Barangay Fort Bonifacio as Chairman Jorge Daniel Bocobo is quick to point out. His barangay is composed of several lesser known areas and sitios, and he is on a mission to ensure that the needs and welfare of constituents from these areas are not left behind.

A HEART FOR PUBLIC SERVICE
Despite being raised in a relatively affluent community in Alabang, Chairman Bocobo knew early on that serving his countrymen is the path he wanted to pursue. He initially contemplated studying law after taking up history in UP Diliman, but eventually found his way to government service where he has worked in various capacities since 1997, beginning as a congressional staff member of Rep. Herminio Teves of Negros Oriental.

It was in 2001, when he was the chief of staff of then Muntinlupa City Councilor Ren-Ren Cayetano, that Chairman Bocobo was first exposed to the harsh realities of community life, particularly in providing for the needs of the poorest of the poor. His experience drove home the importance and necessity of serving the grassroots through effective programs spearheaded by the government. He followed this up with a stint as a staff member in the Senate, where legislation and support to government policies were the tools of public service. He, however, felt that he needed to do more.

“I was aware that I was already helping and serving the people, although indirectly through policies and administrative functions. Pero hinahanap ko pa rin yung direktang pagbibigay ng tulong sa mga nangangailangan. (But I still longed for the chance to have a direct impact on those in need).”

His opportunity came when former TV director Lino Cayetano was elected chairman of Barangay Fort Bonifacio. He appointed Chairman Bocobo as his administrator, a position he held for two years before Direk Lino became a congressman of the City of Taguig. Working at the grassroots level once more, it became clear to him that this was where his heart lay. He was later appointed as head of the Taguig City Economic Investment Promotions Office for six years, but by this time he was already resolute in what he believed was his true purpose.

Chairman Bocobo’s pivotal decision to pursue the chairmanship of Barangay Fort Bonifacio proved to be the turning point in his career. He credits the mentorship of former senator and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, whose Christian values and exemplary public service record he draws inspiration from. He is grateful to the former senator for providing the motivation and guidance he needed as he prepared for the challenges ahead.

As barangay chairman, his leadership style is anchored on collaboration and decisive action. He makes it a point to rally all the stakeholders and carefully considers their views and opinions, whether or not they align with his own.

Mahirap din talaga maging chairman ng isang barangay tulad ng Fort Bonifacio. (It is not easy being barangay chairman of Fort Bonifacio). You have to balance everything, from the requirements of thousands of business locators and their employees to the daily needs, such as food and shelter, of people in the sitios. Those are the challenges I encounter everyday. Kasama na diyan yung pag-asikaso kung may nag-away, reklamo sa hindi pagbabayad ng utang, traffic, etcetera (That includes settling disputes, handling complaints on unpaid debts, managing traffic, etcetera),” he adds.

A BALANCING ACT
One of Chairman Bocobo’s biggest challenges is addressing the economic inequality in his barangay. BGC may be the seat of fiscal power and opportunity, but the benefits must trickle down to the smaller areas. His primary role is to bridge the economic gap and bring progress to the sitios.

He has outlined public safety, peace and order, health and education as his priorities. “Education has been a main priority of our City under the able leadership of Mayor Lani Cayetano. In fact, we have the highest budget for scholarships in the country. Part of my job now is to help our graduates find gainful employment, and provide additional training if necessary,” he states. He has taken on the task of matching job opportunities in the business districts to unemployed constituents of the city. With the healthy professional relationship he has cultivated with the private sector and the city government, there is every reason to feel optimistic.

Chairman Bocobo launched one of his pet projects, the “I Show Malasakit (Empathy) program which aims to build a community that is self-reliant by engaging people to execute simple and basic tasks, such as garbage segregation and maintaining cleanliness in the community, automatically and on their own initiative. “I want to build a community that cares. Kasi noong campaign, ‘yan na ang advocacy ko. Ipinakilala ko sa mga kababayan natin na sama-sama dapat tayong magmalasakit sa barangay at sa ating syudad. (That has been my advocacy even during the campaign. I asked everyone to work in unison to care for our community, to work for each other and take care of each other.)”

As busy as Chairman Bocobo is being the barangay chairman, he still has his hands full with additional responsibilities: He is the President of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC), which earned him his status as a sitting member of the Taguig City Council, and he is also the Secretary-General of the Liga ng mga Barangay sa Pilipinas (League of Barangays in the Philippines).

FULL STEAM AHEAD
There is much to be done, but Chairman Bocobo remains undaunted. As he balances his civic duties with his role as a husband and father, he puts God at the center of all his endeavors, being actively involved in Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon, a Catholic charismatic community where he also serves as a leader. With Christian values and advocacy of good governance as the cornerstone of his administration, things are definitely looking up for this young public servant. — FREDERICK N. CASTILLO

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