TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – When they heard that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte offered 4 agencies to the Left – among them the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) – Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors from Homonhon Island in Eastern Samar had one nominee in mind: Liza Maza.
For almost a month after Yolanda in 2013, Homonhon residents felt neglected and isolated until Maza, a former Gabriela Women’s Party List representative, came with food, fertilizer, a motor boat, and other goods.
Members of the Save Isla Homonhon Movement (Isla Homonhon) shared this information in the comment section of MovePH’s #Du30Cabinet Watch campaign page.
“He Liza Maza, upod an iya mga tawu, nagdara hin magkadirudilain nga mga panginahanglan sugad han bugas, pala, martilyo, ngan iba pa. Iton iya nabuhat para han mga Guiuananon in usa nga ehemplo hin maupay nga buwat para maging usa nga bag-o naton nga DSWD secretary,” according to Isla Homonhon.
(Liza Maza, together with her team, brought assistance that included rice, shovels, hammers, and the like. What she did is the kind of good service that the next DSWD secretary should provide.)
Lobbying the Left
The beneficiaries of Maza’s relief operation in Homonhon, an island in Guiuan town with 12,000 residents, said they urged the Left to recommend Maza as the next social welfare chief.
“Ngada han mga Kaliwa nga grupo nga pipili hiton bag-o nga DSWD Secretary, amon gin re recomendar he Liza Maza nga ungud nga mabulig hit gobierno pag servicio ngadto hiton mga tawu kay damu na iton iya nabuligan bisan waray na hiya ha pwesto.”
(To the Leftist groups that will nominate names for DSWD secretary, we are recommending Liza Maza, because she can genuinely help the government in providing service to the people. She has helped a lot of people even if she was not holding public office.)
One of the Homonhon residents, 45-year-old Daniel Lagos, said that the people of Guiuan, where the super typhoon made landfall on November 8, 2013, will always be grateful for the help they got from various groups and individuals.
They will never forget Maza in particular because she was the first one who showed up when they were homeless and hungry, Lagos told Rappler.
Lagos claimed that the much-needed Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) by DSWD during Secretary Dinky Soliman’s term only reached Homonhon island more than two years after the disaster.
Recalling how Duterte immediately helped Yolanda survivors – even tearing up after seeing the devastation in Eastern Visayas – Lagos said he hopes that Duterte will appoint someone like Maza, who has empathy and a sense of urgency during crisis situations.
Residents of Guiuan, Ground Zero of Yolanda, ask Duterte to appoint former Gabriela Rep Liza Maza as DSWD secretary pic.twitter.com/rmSGKECpTn— Voltaire Tupaz (@VoltaireTupaz) May 26, 2016
“Pilion hi Liza Maza maging usa nga DSWD secretary. An mga Guiuananon, naproybahan na an iya pagbulig han yana nga umagui nga Yolanda. Sana, he President Duterte, lumingi ngadto han mga Guiuanano, ngadto han mga kablasanon.”
(We hope that Liza Maza will be chosen as DSWD secretary. We, the people of Guiuan, have tested her service during Yolanda. We hope that President Duterte will remember the people of Guiuan, the poor.)
After Yolanda hit Eastern Visayas, Duterte sent a convoy of medical teams and relief workers to help in the massive search and rescue operations. He also donated P7 million for Tacloban and Leyte.
Duterte said on Wednesday, May 25, that the Left has handed him a list of 10 “impressive” Cabinet nominees. He said that National Democratic Front (NDF) spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili submitted the list when they met on Tuesday, but refused to divulge the names.
The NDF, CPP’s political arm, has formed a committee that will “choose persons who are people-oriented, competent, honest, and diligent for recommendation to government positions,” NDF chief political consultant Jose Maria “Joma” Sison earlier announced.
Asked whether Maza’s nomination has been considered, Sison suggested that the women’s and children’s rights advocate is “highly qualified.” He added that “it is up to a selection committee to decide promptly.”
In an earlier interview, Sison did not mention specific nominees from the Left, but noted that “such persons are not necessarily communists, but they have to be patriotic and progressive.”
Meanwhile, Davao-based incoming Anakpawis Representative Ayik Casilao, who was with Agcaoili when he met with Duterte, told Rappler that the “the panel (Agcaoili et al) submitted a lot of names, highly principled, highly competent personalities from the Left – including a former lawmaker, a lawyer, leaders of progressive organizations, and an academe professor – coming from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.”
Woman activist in male-dominated Cabinet
If appointed, Maza will be one of the few women who are reported to be joining Duterte’s incoming Cabinet. So far, only one woman, has been asked to join the the Duterte administration – former immigration chief Andrea Domingo, as head the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor).
The presumptive president, however, noted that 4 out of the 10 contenders from the Left are women. (READ: Duterte presidency to have more women leaders).
Maza, who is known to be a feisty rights activist, can provide a strong voice for women in the male-dominated Duterte Cabinet. During her term as Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) representative, Maza was among the authors and a sponsor of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 and a co-author of the Anti-Violence in Women and Children Act (Anti-VAWC) and the Juvenile Justice Act.
After she lost her Senate bid in 2010, Maza headed the Working for Empowerment and Good Governance Institute (WeGovern), which conducts education, training, research, and advocacy activities “to advance new politics with gender and democratic governance at its core.”
The activist former legislator supports efforts in Guiuan and Mercedes in Eastern Samar to rebuild their communities.
Maza got her degree in Bachelor of Science in Business Economics from the University of the Philippines Diliman in 1978.
In her profile on the GWP site, she is described as a feminist and an “endearing mother to two boys,” whom she raised “to respect and recognize every woman’s worth.” Maza, whose husband died of cardiac arrest on May 21, could not be reached for comment. – Rappler.com
MovePH, the civic engagement arm of Rappler, is crowdsourcing comments on, and recommendations for, nominees to the Duterte Cabinet.