WASHINGTON/PASIG CITY  – One of the country’s young giant killers in the 2019 elections, Mayor Victor Ma. Regis “Vico” Sotto of Pasig City, is on the spotlight again.
This time, Sotto, only 31, is honored by the State Department of the United States among the world’s “anticorruption champions” in its International Anticorruption Champions Award. Sotto is the lone Filipino to get the award which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated leadership, courage, and impact in preventing, exposing, and combating corruption.

 

The award, launched under the administration of President Joseph Joe Biden Jr., advances Washington’s support of “anti-corruption leaders and innovators,” according to the State Department’s announcement.

Sotto is described as “a standard-bearer for a new generation of Philippine politicians who prioritize anti-corruption and transparency initiatives in their election campaigns and in office.”

In 2019, the young Sotto, then a neophyte city councilor, defeated an incumbent mayor whose family had governed the city of Pasig for 27 years.

The State Department said Sotto’s prior work on the City Council resulted in the freedom of information legislation that allowed city residents to request documents without having to provide a justification – the first such law in the Metro Manila area.

“Sotto has sought to solidify his reputation as a fresh voice with a new, more transparent approach to governance,” it said. “He pledged to avoid any kickbacks in the awarding of city contracts, established a 24/7 public information and complaints hotline, formally involved civil society organizations in the city’s budgeting and policymaking, and mandated that the value of all city government contracts be reduced by at least 10 percent – a measure intended to reduce bribery in the contract awarding process.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Sotto disclosed Pasig City has saved at least P1.2 billion after a more transparent bidding process for government projects was implemented in the city.

“Mula July 2019, marami na tayong napagtagumpayang reporma sa ating LGU: Binuksan natin ang bidding para puwedeng manalo ang kahit sinong contractor na kwalipikado. Walang kickback kaya bumababa ang presyo (Since July 2019, we have successfully reformed our local government unit: We opened bidding to the public so that any qualified contractor would have a chance to win. We saved money because there are no kickbacks.),” Sotto said in a social media post.

The local government plans to “establish a pool of capable civil society organization (CSO) observers” to further reform Pasig’s bidding process, the mayor said.

“Gusto natin maraming mata pero dapat may teknikal na kapasidad, hindi yung nakikitsismis lang,” he said.

Eleven other individuals from various countries were recognized by the US State Department in Washington.

The other champions named this year are:

1. Ardian Dvorani, judge and member of the Justice Appointments Council of Albania;
2. Diana Salazar, Ecuador’s attorney general;
3. Sophia Pretrick, investigative advisor for the Compliance Investigation Division of the Pohnpei State Auditor of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM);
4. Juan Francisco Sandoval Alfaro, chief of the Special Prosecutors Office Against Corruption and Impunity in Guatemala;
5. Ibrahima Kalil Gueye, Chair and co-founder of the Organization for Positive Change, an NGO focusing on good governance, peace, and education in Guinea;
6. Anjali Bhardwaj, an active member of the Right to Information Movement in India;
7. Dhuha A. Mohammed, director-general for Electronic Payments at the Central Bank of Iraq;
8. Mustafa Abdullah Sanalla, chairman of Libya’s National Oil Corporation;
9. Francis Ben Kaifala, commissioner of Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC);
10. Ruslan Ryaboshapka, former prosecutor general in Ukraine; and
11. Bolot Temirov, investigative journalist and editor-in-chief of Factcheck.kg in the Kyrgyz Republic.

“The State Department continues to stand by citizens around the world calling for transparent, accountable governments. We proudly recognize these international champions of anticorruption and all those who have taken a stand against corruption,” the State Department said.

In honoring the champions, Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the 12 as “brave individuals” and commended their dedication.

“As President Biden has emphasized, our commitment to truth, transparency, and accountability is a mission that we must live at home and exemplify abroad. I commend the dedication of these 12 brave individuals to these same ideals,” he said. “They inspire us and so many of their counterparts pursuing these ideals around the world.”

Mayor Sotto, the son of actor and television host Vic Sotto and actress Coney Reyes, is a nephew of Senate President Vicente Sotto III who started as a city councilor then vice mayor of Quezon City before he was elected senator.

The young Sotto got his baccalaureate degree in political science and master’s degree in public administration from Ateneo de Manila University.