Tatler Interview: Loren Legarda Talks About Her Accomplishments As A Politician And Advocate
Nearly two decades ago, Lorna Regina Bautista Legarda, or Loren to most everybody, graced the cover of this magazine for the first time. This was followed by four others, the last one being in 2017, at the Venice Biennale, where she revived the Philippine participation after 51 years of absence. Give this indefatigable politician one year of service and she will return it chock-full of accomplishments; give her 18 years, the period between 2002 and 2020, and she will give it back overflowing non-stop.
She was in her first six-year term as a senator when she posed on the cover of Tatler Philippines that was styled by Anton R Mendoza and photographed by Bien Bautista. Two more terms as a senator plus one completed year in her current post as congressional representative followed, sum up to a total of 19 years in the legislative service to date. Enough to speak with authority on the status of Philippine politics, which she describes as “dynamic”. Legarda elaborates: “Over the years politicians have learnt to adapt to the new expectations of the voting public who are now more informed and more engaged in what is happening in our society. One thing that never changed though is the people’s expectation that a public office should follow these two tenets: selflessness and service with passion.”
She recalls that she was witness to four administrations, each with different sets of priorities. “As a senator, I did my best to contribute in achieving those goals,” she says.
Legarda, however, goes beyond politics. She is a feisty advocate of many causes, the top three being her Triple C: climate, culture and children’s rights. “My work does not stop with legislation”, she admits, “as I have always been driven by my hope of making a difference where I can.”
Limiting her achievements of 19 years to the top three is a daunting, if not impossible, task. But she tries. “I am proud to have authored 10 landmark environmental laws and climate risk governance laws. In the cultural landscape, one of my most significant achievements was to be able to bring back the Philippines to the Venice Biennale. I have also supported our Schools of Living Traditions all over the Philippines; the establishment of weaving centres; the conduct of arts and crafts fairs, thus fostering a cultural rebirth for both our traditional and contemporary arts.”
Under her chairmanship, the Senate Committee on Finance was able to introduce innovations to the budget process particularly to ensure that climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures are integrated in the budgets of agencies; to provide free college education, free irrigation for small farmers, free WiFi to state universities and colleges, World Teachers Day allowance and the universal healthcare; to double the salary of soldiers and police, increase the chalk allowance of teachers, fund more livelihood programmes and provide greater support for MSMEs.
As the congresswoman of the lone district of Antique, she sees the strengths of her office. “While legislation is the primary focus
of both a senator and a member of the House of Representatives, as a congresswoman, I am able to micromanage the wide array of needs of my province and my kasimanwa [constituents],” she comments.
- Photography Bien Bautista (2002)
- Photography Joseph Vidal (2020)