I’M STILL trying to get used to the “new” Edgar Labella.
The friend I walked with regularly on early mornings at the Cebu City Sports Center oval would avoid controversy if he could, the kind who would offer the other cheek to a tormentor rather than trade slaps with him.
Now, he’s slapping back. The last couple of weeks has seen him engage his rival Tomas Osmeña in a tit-for-tat. While the language that both use are still comparatively tame, the mutual spite is palpable and it could only grow deeper as the election campaign heads to the homestretch.
The friends who rued that Labella was too “buotan” (I’m using the Cebuano term because the English language does not have the equivalent) must now be celebrating his transformation. Maybe, he finally heeded their advice to show more fire or Osmeña’s constant needling has finally broken his self-restraint.
And so last Wednesday, we read about the PDP-Laban candidate pointedly telling his BOPK rival to look at himself in the mirror before accusing anyone of terrorism. Osmeña had on many occasions insinuated that Labella was using the police to intimidate the mayor’s followers in certain mountain barangays.
Labella’s reply to Osmeña’s latest tirade was a classic. “The people in Cebu City know who among the politicians are capable of making terroristic acts and intimidating tactics,” he snapped. As to Osmeña’s beef with the police, Labella in effect said that Osmeña should address it himself and not involve him because his conflict with the police “is his own doing.”
Their exchange has so far been limited to Facebook posts and statements to the press. We can only imagine what it would look like when the pair clash in a debate organized by the Cebu City IBP ( my chapter, I am proud to say) on May 6 at the Cebu City Sports Club. The debate was originally scheduled next Monday, April 22 but Cebu City IBP president Regal Oliva said that they decided to reset it in order to “give way and respect the candidates’ commemoration of the Holy Week. We do not want them to be preparing for the debates instead of reflecting during the holy days as we culminate the Lenten season.”
The candidates have been advised that they are supposed to talk only on issues of concern for the city and while I am sure that the moderator will mightily try to enforce this rule, we all know that it will take only one side comment for hell to break loose.
I congratulate Regal and the members of my chapter’s Board of Officers for organizing the debate and I hope that none of those who have been invited and who have confirmed their participation will chicken out at the last minute. Former Mayor Michael Rama, who is running for vice mayor with Labella, has refused to debate with his opponent, Councilor Mary Ann delos Santos because, according to him, he is leading in the surveys.
He completely missed the point but whether to debate or not to debate is his prerogative and we will respect that. But at the same time Rama, who is incidentally a Cebu City IBP member himself, should also show the same respect to the organizers by not doing anything that will torpedo the forum.
Which was what he did when he publicly advised Labella to withdraw from the debate because his teammate is also leading in the surveys. Let Labella be, Mr. Rama. He knows what he is doing.