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LOS BAÑOS — Mateo Gurango-San Sebastian is running for vice-governor of Laguna, up against a popular incumbent, Karen Agapay. He doesn’t mind being the underdog; he has been in this position before.
More popularly known as Brother Rico, he was born in Pagsanjan and attended Union College of Laguna on a scholarship and eventually became active in church in Cabuyao where he was ordained as a eucharistic lay minister. He says his religion shapes his political views and aspirations.
This isn’t the first time Brother Rico is running for the office of the vice governor. He also ran for the position back in 2016 where he ran against major candidates like Agapay of Nacionalista Party, Angelica Jones-Alarva of the Liberal Party, and Christian Niño Lajara of United Nationalist Alliance. He lost, gaining only 26,701 votes, but it did not dishearten him. Indeed, it made him even more determined to win the seat, he said. “There are lots of problems in our province today and it can be solved if there is proper coordination with the government (especially the bokal) and the people,” he said during the gubernatorial forum here on Monday.
His ideas seem grand. He plans to create a “company” where most of the employees will be the citizens of Laguna. In this “company,” everyone will work to produce goods and the income will eventually go to projects like services for the PWDs.
As vice governor, he will fight to take back the coco levy fund that can help the poorest Lagunenses, especially those who live beside the train tracks.
Putting up this “company,” he admitted, seems impossible at the moment but Brother Rico is optimistic, given “proper coordination.” “To be able to achieve the projects we have in mind and the projects that are approved by the president, we need to personally talk to each bokal from each municipality in the province. This way we will be able to ensure that we are on the same page,” he explained.
At 68, Brother Rico feels strongly for his fellow senior citizen. He remembers bitterly his experience every time he visits the senior citizen office at the provincial capitol. “The staff in that office treats senior citizens like they are beggars,” he recalled. “If I will be blessed to win this election, I will make sure that once a week I will be the one to personally talk with the senior citizens and address their needs.”
Brother Rico promised to be generous to those who medical and health assistance. Unfortunately, his generosity does not extend to members of the LGBT community. It is still important to keep things traditional, he said. Instead of funding proper sex education in schools, he thinks teenagers should just focus on other things and distract themselves from sexual temptations. “Boys should do sports, they should join a basketball league or take lessons. Girls should focus on studying the bible. Let us work together to maintain the younger generation’s morality,” he explained.
When asked about his platforms for the LGBT sector and how he will address the alarming cases of HIV in the province, the lay minister said: “We need to follow what is in the Bible to prevent diseases such as this.”
Brother Rico was nonresponsive to the issue of labor and contractualization, saying “I will follow the governor’s decisions and will be at the forefront of enforcing laws regarding this.”
To alleviate the traffic condition in the province, particularly Los Baños, he said Laguna de Bay should have a ferry. Still on Laguna de Bay, he seems unaware of the issues regarding demolitions along the lake to make way for the proposed construction of the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike. But he does have an idea on how to save the lake: stricter rules against trash throwing. He thinks the lake will never dry up and create a water shortage similar to Metro Manila. “Water is a gift from God,” he explained. “Water will never run dry.”
He thinks it is right to bring back the death penalty as well as lowering the age of criminal liability. Like the administration, he believes there is no threat to press freedom in the country and that the “war on drugs” has been a success. (Laguna Now)