Atty. Jocelle Batapa-Sigue: Breaking the politician stereotype
In the Philippines, the word “politician” is associated with “corruption”, “greed”, and “deceit”. But not all Filipino politicians are motivated by money and power. Atty. Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, a councilor of Bacolod City in Negros Occidental, empowers women and children, firmly believing that God called her to serve the people. Her passion for genuine public service triumphing the negative stereotypes of politicians.
At 42, Jocelle has already achieved a lot as a lawyer, educator, media practitioner, environmental advocate, upholder of women and children’s rights, and especially as a public servant. She has put her city on the map as a Center of Excellence in IT-BPM and was hailed by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines as the Philippine Individual ICT (Information and Communications Technology) Contributor of the Year last 2013.
Jocelle has so many recognitions that you would think that life has always been good to her. But little do people know about the trials she faced which shaped her into who she is today.
The eldest of six children, she lost her mother, and her father became unemployed when she was nine. This made her doubt her family’s survival but she didn’t lose hope. She became a working student and, with dedication, perseverance, and faith, graduated from law at the University of St. La Salle in 1997. As she prepared for the Philippine Bar Examination, she promised God that she would help rape victims, for free, if she passed. In 1998, Jocelle fulfilled her dream of becoming a lawyer. Today, she is the head of the Women’s and Children’s Legal Desk of the Law Center in USLS and a volunteer counsel for Bacolod’s Women Center.
A tragic car accident almost cost Jocelle her right arm in the following year. This reminded her of her promise to God. At that time, she and her husband were busy with ATLAS (Anti-Trafficking Legal Advocates Society), a society they founded handling more complicated cases of child trafficking and domestic violence. Afterwhich, she resigned from her job and focused on teaching instead.
Jocelle realized her calling when a failed political attempt in 2001 opened her eyes to the pain of poverty in her city. “Even as a child I would always ask myself – why [do] other [people] have more opportunities to a better life than the rest? I wanted to do something for other people and for myself so we can emancipate ourselves from poverty and the lack of opportunities”, she shares.
She was eventually elected city councilor for two straight terms in 2004 and 2007 where she was tasked to head the ICT industry. This led to the establishment of Bacolod-Negros Occidental Federation for Information and Communications Technology (BNEFIT) and the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines (NICP), a big group of ICT organizations in different places in the country aiming to offer more jobs and investments to countryside cities. Fourteen thousand jobs were developed with her leadership.
Jocelle ran for congress in 2010 but lost. Fortunately, this allowed her to concentrate on NICP as president and obtain knowledge needed for ICT in the U.S. She once again became city councilor last 2013 and by this time, Jocelle finally realized that God wanted her to be humble in spite of her numerous achievements in life.
Presently, Jocelle is facing a brand new challenge–leading Bacolod’s committees in tourism and trade, and shares that she wants to create new opportunities for the people. “My focus is developing Bacolod as a MICE destination (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions)”, she said.
Atty. Batapa-Sigue’s story strays away from the generalization against those who are in the government and talks about how everything can fall into place when you entrust your entire life to God.
She is beyond grateful that God is with her every step of the way. “I can always say I am a very adept, strong-willed, courageous and intelligent woman – and that is the reason why I survived all of my life’s challenges–but that is not entirely true. I would be lying to myself. That power to survive comes from God. He lifted me through all these years, creating paths I even never dream of”, she shares.
Her passion in striving for other people’s welfare among others is what makes her shine. “I love working for others. I love seeing my ideas develop into things that will help others. I love sharing my views and suggestions to make other people’s lives better, to point them to opportunities, to strengthen them, to make them better as individuals and as leaders,” she said.
Jocelle has been blessed in return, not only with new fun experiences that come with her career, but especially with a very loving family. “Arnel and my son, Emmanuel, are the two greatest gifts God has given me. They make my life more meaningful…just being with them is such a joy…I am very human in their company. Motherhood and being a wife is as easy as breathing with them,” she expressed.
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