Mayor Oscar Moreno, A Visionary Public Servant with a Heart for Education

17 January 2022

Mayor  Oscar S. Moreno’s  career in  public  service  spans  over  20 years.    He joined public service and was elected as Representative of the First District of Misamis Oriental in 1998 to 2004  at the  11th and  12th  Congress.    He  ran  and  was  elected   Governor of the Province of Misamis Oriental in 2004   and  overwhelmingly won in the succeeding elections in 2007 and 2010.    He  was  elected  and  took over as   Mayor  of  Cagayan de Oro City  in the 2013 local elections.    He is currently   serving  his  third  and last term  as City Mayor. 

His brand of politics is anchored on the mantra “serving the people, the best way possible,” a testament to his genuine and   transparent  delivery of public service.    CDO  gained prominence  for   its best practices that have become worthy of emulation by other local government units.    

When he assumed office as Mayor in 2013,  his vision was for  CDO  to be an  economic hub of Southern Philippines.    He  dreamed   of  transforming  CDO  as  the   convergence point  and “Gateway  to  Northern Mindanao.”   

Apart from economic  development, part of  Mayor Moreno’s  vision  is  quality education for  Kagay-anons.     Education has a special  place  in his heart  because  his  mother  was  a  public  school teacher.    He was a  product  of  public  school having   spent  his  elementary years  at  Balingasag  Central  Elementary School.    Education  is one of the priorities in  his  political  agenda.   Even when he was   Governor of Misamis Oriental,  education was part of his  8-Point Agenda.   The classroom shortage in CDO back then was his turning point and made him decide that education shall be one of the pillars of his administration. 

CDO’s   education  reform  agenda  began  when Mayor  Moreno  met  Ma’am Nene  of  Synergeia Foundation Inc.    It was  a memorable  first meeting because  on the day itself  Mayor  Moreno was coming from another  official  event and  so was almost  late  for  the Synergeia meeting.   He had  to literally  run  to the Synergeia Office  in Ateneo Rockwell Center  just to be on time for  his  first  meeting  with  Ma’am Nene.   That  meeting  sealed  the Synergeia-CDO  partnership  on education.   

Following the Synergeia way, Mayor Moreno took the driver’s seat and led the implementation of the education agenda and reform programs of CDO.  First,  he  reinvented  his local  school board  by  inviting  stakeholders  from other  sectors .  Taking inspiration from Mayor Jesse Robredo, Mayor Moreno reconstituted the LSB to make it participatory and inclusive.   He believed that the LSB should drive the education agenda and be like “performance officers,” seeing to it that the schools, parents, and village officials  share  in the  accountability of ensuring that children attend school and learn.    He signed  an  Executive  Order  reorganizing  the  City School Board  with   multi-sectoral  composition.    Aside  from the  8  mandated members,  there are  representatives from the academe,  business,  private school association,  CSOs/NGOs,  association of  barangays,  inter-faith sector,  youth,    school heads  and  parents.    The City Budget Officer and  City Engineer also sit in the LSB.    CDO LSB is one of the most  active  and  functional  LSBs  in the Philippines.   Mayor  Moreno  initiated   a  culture  of teamwork, collaboration and  transparency in his  LSB.   And  what  sparks  joy  in the  LSB  is  the  spirit  of  camaraderie among  board members.   Members would   clap their  hands  and  cheer  every time  the board  passes a  resolution  or approves  a  project proposal. Mayor Moreno believed in the concept of “kurambos” or the pooling together of resources.   He encourages dialogues among LSB members as everyone in the LSB is involved in strengthening the education system.  

The  next  important  step  was the holding of  the  City-wide  Education  Summit.  Mayor Moreno wanted to involve all stakeholders.   The  first  ever  public  consultation on education was  held on  November 16,  2013  at the  Tourism  Center  across the City Hall.   It  was when the education program of  CDO officially  took off.   The  programs  identified  by the community  in the  summit   became Mayor Moreno’s  guide  to the City’s   journey in  education. 

For almost 8 years of his  education journey,    there were  remarkable  accomplishments in CDO’s  program.   Mayor Moreno’s  flagship program  is  improving school  facilities  to provide  students  with a conducive  learning environment and  student-friendly  spaces.  The LSB invested in classrooms.  Having an initially uncooperative city council did not deter Mayor Moreno from implementing his program.  He maximized the utilization of the Special Education Fund so that the problem of classrooms could be immediately addressed.  So far, under his leadership,  the  City   constructed more than 700 classrooms.   New high school campuses have also been built in barangays where there used to be no high school.     Because of this flagship  program,  CDO  was chosen as one of 10 pilot cities in the country to implement senior high school under the LEADERS (Lead Educate Advocate Design Effective Responsive Senior High School) program by  the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP).  Even  during  the pandemic,  the Mayor  did not  stop  his  classroom  project  because  he knew these   are  long-term investments in  education.    

Mayor Moreno saw to it that barangays and  School Governing Councils work in harmony.    He envisioned a strong  school-community  partnership on  education.   SGCs  of  Cagayan  have become  involved  in  school programs  and  projects.     To ensure quality education,  capacity building  of  teachers and parents  were  given special attention.   For inclusive  education,  Mayor Moreno  made sure  children  with physical  disabilities, special needs and those   from indigenous communities  were part of the education  program.   Education programs  reached  children in the hinterlands.  Mayor Moreno’s education agenda was comprehensive and holistic.  

Under Mayor Moreno’s  leadership,  CDO  has been awarded  the  “Seal of Good Education Governance”   for  four  consecutive  years  in 2017, 2018,  2019 and 2020.    The Seal  is  a recognition  of   a local government’s  initiatives  in delivering   quality  basic  education   and for making  it  a  priority  agenda.    To him ,  the Seal  symbolizes  the  fruits  of  labor  of  the LSB, City Government,  schools  and  communities.   It is  a  return of  investment.   It is a realization of his dream, the heart of his journey in education.

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