Being in her first nationally elected post didn’t stop Vice President Sara Duterte from accomplishing what she had set out to do—make government services more accessible for Filipinos, especially for those living in far-flung areas. ![VP SARA 1.jpg]( ###### (From left) Vice President Sara Duterte and President Halimah Yacob of Singapore during a bilateral meeting on Wednesday, June 14, 2023. (Photo by MCI/Terence Tan)
In relinquishing her earlier decision to run for re-election as local chief executive in her hometown of Davao City, Duterte made the giant step of diving head first into national politics. Her first foray into one of the biggest political stages in the country didn’t come without hiccups, but she has the promise of the UniTeam ticket to back up her plans and made possible the plans she laid out for the Office of the Vice President (OVP). During the OVP’s “Pasidungog” 2023 event at the Sofitel Manila earlier this month, the Vice President looked back on what her office had accomplished in its first year as she thanked some 432 organizations and agencies whom she worked with. “To serve our people, to reach them, and bring about meaningful change in their lives is the foundation of our enduring unity,” she said. **Social services** One of her most ambitious and perhaps commendable accomplishments during the past year is the establishment of nine satellite offices in Davao, Zamboanga, Cotabato, Tandag, Cebu, Bacolod, Tacloban, Isabela, Dagupan, and Cotabato to ensure that projects and services from the OVP’s central office in Mandaluyong City are still accessible to Filipinos living in the provinces. Filipinos, in particular, need the OVP’s medical and burial assistance, through which the OVP already provided P236 million worth of medical assistance to 22,970 Filipinos from June 2022 to April 2023. For the burial assistance, Duterte said the OVP had given out P30.8 million to a total of 6,175 families without the financial capacity to bury their dead loved ones. Aside from the nine satellite offices, the groundwork for the establishment of another satellite office in the Bicol Region is also underway. There are also two Public Assistance Division (PAD) Extension Offices in Lipa, Batangas and Tondo, Manila. “Through the satellite offices and the PAD extension offices, we can immediately, effectively, and efficiently respond to the needs of our people for social services and other available government programs,” Duterte said. “Filipinos in dire situations in Dagupan or Maguindanao, or Zamboanga do not need to go to the OVP Central Office in Mandaluyong to access medical assistance,” she added. **Disaster and relief operations** The OVP is also making its mark in the country’s disaster and relief operations, having created the OVP Disaster Operations Center (OVP-DOC) to respond to and provide assistance to victims of earthquakes, landslides, floods, typhoons, and fire incidence. ![VP SARA RELIEF.jpg]( ###### OVP Relief Operations in Albay (Photo from Inday Sara Duterte/Facebook)
“We wanted to complement the efforts of LGUs and national government agencies involved in disaster response and ensure that people affected by disasters and calamities were given immediate relief assistance,” Duterte said. Her office has likewise reached out to various communities affected by the Occidental Mindoro oil spill following the February 28 sinking of MT Princess Empress. **Livelihood and other special projects** The Vice President brought to the national fora one of her most significant projects when she was still Davao City mayor—the Mag Negosyo Ta ‘Day (MTD) project. With the aim of making women and members of the LGBTQI+ community economically empowered and independent, the MTD will augment its beneficiaries’ daily income by providing livelihood resources and starting capital. One of the first beneficiaries of the program is the Makabagong Ina at Kababaihan Tungo sa Asenso Inc. (MIKA), a women’s group in San Pedro, Laguna that produces paper products from water lily pulp. “Our vision is to see marginalized sectors and groups right in the middle of robust economic activities in our communities where the incidence of poverty is high — and to open opportunities for others to be financially literate and secure,” Duterte said. The OVP also established the “Peak Hours Augmentation Bus Service (PHABS) - Libreng Sakay” program in Metro Manila, Cebu City, Lapu-lapu, Mandaue, Bacolod, and Davao City to help alleviate the mobility concerns of thousands of Filipino commuters living in key cities of the country. Duterte also recognized the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) “for sharing their legal expertise for those who come to the OVP for their legal problems.” **Children’s welfare and education** As education chief in a concurrent capacity, Duterte also has to focus her attention on the country’s education crisis. She launched the “PagbaBAGo: A Million Learners and Trees Campaign”, the “PanSarap Program”, and the “You Can Be VP” to promote the importance of education and nutrition among the youth. ![VP SARA 2.jpg]( ###### Vice President Sara Duterte gives a green backpack filled with school supplies and dental kits to a young learner in Cebu as part of her office's "PagbaBAGo" campaign. (OVP photo)
The PagbaBAGo campaign intends to provide students with one million bags containing school supplies and dental kits, as well as plant one million trees for environmental sustainability. Duterte said that the program, which would also promote family planning among parents, will “instill in the hearts and minds of our learners the value of education and its power to change lives for the better.” “We want to raise the awareness of our learners about the importance of protecting the environment in the face of growing concerns over the impact of climate change on our communities,” she added. The program’s May 27 launch saw the distribution of some 10,000 PagbaBAGo bags to schoolchildren through the OVP’s satellite offices. The PanSarap Program, a supplemental nutrition intervention program to address malnutrition among schoolchildren, will also complement Duterte’s efforts in addressing the education crisis. Some 1,000 undernourished school learners from Nuro Central Elementary School in Upi, Maguindanao and 733 learners from Tamugan Elementary School, Davao City already benefitted from the project. ![VP SARA OVP.jpg]( ###### OVP satellite office in Cotabato City, Maguindanao (Inday Sara Duterte/Facebook)
Her “You Can Be VP” has so far benefited two students—“Trix,” a Grade 9 student from Dinalupihan, Bataan who went with Duterte on her first foreign official visit to Tokyo as the President’s special envoy to the state funeral for former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; and “Naomi,” a Grade 8 student of Mariano G. Medalla Integrated School who accompanied the Vice President in her recent visits to Brunei and Singapore as the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) Council President. She said the program aims to “inspire other young Filipinos to reach for the sky, and provide people in the government service and our partners — hope, and strength to do more for our children and their futures.” With more plans in the OVP’s pipeline, Duterte stressed the need for both public and private partners to expand the scope and enrich the socioeconomic programs of her office. “We are called to protect the gains of our efforts to alleviate our people from poverty — and we are challenged to continue working on sustainable and inclusive development,” Duterte said. “This is us investing in our children by promoting their welfare and fundamental rights as humans and citizens of our country. This is us investing in the future,” she added. **Not everything is rosy** Although the Vice President ran under the platform of unity and won with her running-mate, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., not everything is a walk in the park during her first year in office. She found herself embroiled in the tussle at the House of Representatives when her mentor, former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Gloria Arroyo, was demoted from her senior deputy speaker position following a reported failed coup attempt against the President’s cousin, House Speaker Martin Romualdez. In a whirlwind of events last month, Duterte resigned from Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD), the political party she shares with Romualdez and that catapulted her win as vice president. She also alluded to a “tambaloslos” (a Visayan term for shameless) in an Instagram post, referring to someone she said has been too ambitious. She further fanned the flame when she refused to mention Marcos’ middle name—Romualdez—in a recent event where she expressed love and admiration for the President.

Source: Manila Bulletin (