Mayor of Zamboanga City, Philippines
Being part of an International Network of Women Mayors gives me the opportunity to share my ‘HerStory’ of empowerment. I am passionate about a simple pillar of advocacy: Security, Health and Education (S.H.E.). This is gender fair as it embodies both women and men. If you remove the S, it becomes HE. All are vital in contributing to the development of all gender.
Beng Climaco is an advocate for women and children’s rights and was inspired by her grandmother, who was a suffragist and principal authors of the Magna Carta of Women Republic Act 9710. She finished her Secondary Education in the US and holds a Master’s Degree in Family Ministry and Counseling from Ateneo de Manila University. She is a teacher by profession and actively volunteers in stress debriefing sessions to Filipino soldiers. She holds a rank of Lieutenant Colonel, as a reservist in the Philippine Army.
Her career in politics began in 1998 as a City Councillor, where her father, also a former Vice-Mayor, served as her mentor and inspiration. She became a Vice-Mayor in 2004 and a member of the House of Representatives for two terms. During her second term, she was elected as the youngest and only woman Deputy Speaker of the 15th Congress. In 2013, she was given the highest mandate as Mayor of Zamboanga City, the sixth largest city in the Philippines. On the third month of her term, her leadership was tested when 500 Moro National Liberation Front rebels attacked the city that resulted in a humanitarian crisis as declared by the United Nations and displaced 23,000 families, 120,000 individuals and the loss of 10,000 homes. Today through her "Building Back of a Better Zamboanga City" initiative, 90 percent of the internally displaced have returned to permanent shelters. In 2017, her city was awarded the "Most Improved City" in the country and was conferred the Seal of Good Local Governance for two consecutive years.
In 2004, I was single and was running for Vice-Mayor. My opponent harassed me saying that, ‘I am already dried-up,’ to directly attack my womanhood and my capacity to give-birth. It was cruel and prejudicial. He lost the election for Vice-Mayor.