Rural ICT advocate makes surprise move to run as Bacolod mayor

Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, a lawyer who has made a name for herself as a fierce advocate of ICT for countryside development, made a surprise announcement on Tuesday, October 16, that she is running as a mayoralty candidate in Bacolod City.

Photo from Facebook shows Jocelle Batapa-Sigue (center) filing her certificate of candidacy with her running mates Thaddy Sayson (for vice mayor) and Monico Puentevella (for representative)

A former city councilor before she took up her ICT advocacy to the national level, Batapa-Sigue filed her certificate of candidacy (COC) at a local Comelec office. She will be running against long-time politician and incumbent mayor Evelio Leonardia.

Since passing the Bar examinations in 1998, Batapa-Sigue has taught law at the University of St. La Salle in Bacolod while doing private law practice at the same time.

Her defining work, however, were mostly in the ICT sector, particularly in co-founding the Bacolod-Negros Occidental Federation for ICT (BNEFIT) and the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP) which she headed for a number of years.

Through the NICP — a national organization of local ICT councils – Batapa-Sigue actively promoted countrywide digital development and investment in the provinces. Under the NICP, she also initiated the Excellence in Governance Through ICT or eGOV Awards, which became the Digital Cities eGOV Awards this year.

In recognition of her work for making Bacolod City and Negros Occidental as one of top global destinations for BPO, she was given the 2014 Philippines ICT Individual Contributor of the Year by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines and the IT Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP).

The citation of the award read: “Her simple goal of helping generate jobs for the people of Bacolod ten years ago has evolved into a commitment of helping the country in pursuing more jobs in the ICT for sector, particularly in the countryside today.”

On the day that she announced her candidacy, Batapa-Sigue said that joining the mayoralty race “will probably come as a surprise” as even her closest friends were not aware of her “sudden decision to return to the political scene of Bacolod again”.

“But I have carefully and prayerfully considered all probable consequences and challenges between coming forward or staying in the sidelines. For me, it is not only a question of whether I can win or not – it is more about whether Bacolod can win or not?” she said.

Batapa-Sigue, who is married to fellow lawyer Arnel Sigue, said her desire “to see Bacolod rise above its current state” pushed her to fight the same set of people who have ruled the city in the last three decades.

“Despite the obvious need for new ideas, for fresh directions, for innovative solutions, the same faces and names dominate our city’s political landscape. Since the choices are limited, it has become easy for politicians with strong political machineries to continue in power,” she said.

“I am known for having led the creation of ICT jobs in Bacolod – this actually inspired me to keep going and spread the strategies to other cities,” she added.

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