Most of his colleagues would take their chauffeur-driven cars every day to go to work. Most of them think nothing of taking the courtesy lane for VIPs at the airport upon arriving from an overseas trip.
But not Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon. The three-term legislator takes the MRT at peak hours. He knows how it feels to have a sea of commuters pushing him forward, while he’s standing right next to the door.
He takes the P2P bus, rides the jeepney, and walks if he wants to. That’s because he wants to check out the state of public transportation and experience everything a regular commuter does.
“That’s what we’re supposed to do as a policymaker,” the 49-year-old congressman explains. “It enables us to double check what government officials say they’re doing. I understand that sometimes, they paint a positive picture of the reality. But they can’t fool us.”
Again, unlike some of his colleagues, Biazon politely declines to head straight to the airport courtesy lane and lines up just like us ordinary citizens. As usual, he wants to know if returning passengers encounter problems on their way to the carousel, immigration, and other areas at the airport.
ON THE JOB
This on-the-ground style is something he learned from his father, former senator Rodolfo Biazon. The four-star general shunned special treatment and preferred to mingle with his men when he was still in active military service.
His congressman-son proves he’s a chip off the old block by talking to his constituents, even if he has to turn down an offer from the men to join them for a few rounds of beer.
Biazon apologizes and says he’s on duty. It has come to a point where the men have stopped offering him drinks because they know their representative will say no. They also know Biazon will gently urge them to take care of their liver and save the money for their children’s school needs instead.
This ease with the common folk is one of the reasons why Biazon won the Congressional seat for the Lone District of Muntinlupa by a landslide of 60,000 votes.
It’s also how he convinced informal settlers living by the railway to relocate to a place in the city’s New Bilibid Prison years back. Biazon didn’t force them to leave their homes in Muntinlupa for a faraway province where they can hardly find a job, where their children have to travel miles to get to school, and where basic utilities like power and water are absent. Instead, he personally went to almost 10 barangays and held two town hall style meetings a day on weekends. Biazon talked to heads of 100 families and discussed the issues with them. Biazon’s dialogues were held, not only while he was campaigning for government office, but even after he won in the elections. He asked then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) to donate a portion of the almost 500-hectare New Bilibid Prison property for the informal settlers. That’s how Biazon secured the 50 hectares where he relocated Muntinlupa’s informal settlers.
His eight years of experience in total—as his father’s chief of staff and as part of former Senator Sergio Osmena’s office—has taught Biazon a lot. One of those lessons was how to handle rejections from Local Government Units (LGUs).
“Sadly, LGUs turn down informal settlers because they’re (an) added burden on their social services,” notes Biazon. “More people mean additional problems.” That is why, in the end, many resettled families leave the relocation site in the province and return to the city.
Biazon’s solution is in-city relocation and a usufruct agreement with the informal settlers instead. The agreement gives informal settlers the right to use the property for 50 years, or nearly a lifetime.
Biazon thinks that’s enough time for them to earn a living and send their children to school. Once done with school, the children can start working and find a permanent place for the family.
“I talked to one of the residents in their unit,” recalls Biazon. “His barbershop services around 20 residents a day at P40 per haircut. His children are now in school.”
A more heartwarming story is that of a teacher who asked for a selfie with the congressman. “Sir, I was a scholar in your basic education program. I’m about to finish my doctorate.”
These and other stories inspire Biazon to do more for his constituents. He finds out what they need by checking his social media accounts @ruffybiazon and @officialruffybiazon. He himself posts messages ranging from asking for the reference number of a package that has remained unclaimed in the post office, to his views on national issues.
Down the road, the highly-regarded congressman wants to continue the programs of Muntinlupa mayor Jaime Fresnedi when he reaches his last term of office in 2022. Unlike other congressmen and mayors who are at odds with each other, Biazon and Fresnedi support each other. They plan annual programs together so government funds won’t go to waste on overlapping projects. Biazon allots funds on a national level, while Fresnedi takes care of local expenses.
It is important for the programs that Biazon and Fresnedi had started to remain in force for the next generation. So Biazon is mulling over the possibility of “shifting from legislative to executive level.” Read: He’ll run for city mayor.
Biazon’s solution to informal settlers is in-city relocation and a usufruct agreement, which gives them the right to use property for 50 years, enough time to help them raise their families and seek livelihood.
Meanwhile, this outstanding congressman continues to enrich the treasure trove of knowledge he has gained through the years by serving the people the best way he knows how—by being as hands-on as he can be. — MARIDOL RANOA-BISMARK