Malilong: Duterte, other factors in Labella win

The Other Side

WHEN former Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama finally put an end to months of agonizing by the opposition over the possibility that they will have two candidates for mayor in last Monday’s elections, he said he was making “the ultimate sacrifice” in order to free Cebu City from the rule of Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

Rama’s selflessness did not go unrewarded because both he and Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella won. Had Rama run for mayor, they would have split the opposition vote, resulting in certain defeat.

But that fact was not the only factor in Labella’s win. There were others.

One. The endorsement by the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), which is known to vote as a bloc. The INC has supported Osmeña in the past elections but this year, the “sugo” was for them to vote for Labella. Assuming that they have 20,000 registered voters in Cebu City and considering how close the fight was, their number was enough to spell the difference between victory and defeat.

Two: President Duterte’s last-minute campaign for Labella and against Osmeña. Duterte had previously acknowledged Labella as his candidate in Cebu City by raising his hand during a rally for the PDP-Laban senatorial candidates at the Plaza Independencia. But he also raised the hands of so many other candidates on the same occasion and that diminished the hand-raising’s impact.

In the last week of the campaign, the President invited Labella to the Palace and there surprised him by not only openly campaigning for him but also reiterating his rant against Osmeña while being videoed. There couldn’t have been a clearer and stronger instruction from the President to his followers here on who he wanted to be Cebu City mayor. The results of last Monday’s elections show a big number of candidates who benefited from the hugely popular President’s endorsement. Labella was one of them.

Three: The IBP debate. Up to the day of the debate itself, Labella was still besieged with pleas from his allies and campaign handlers to not show up for the debate. Among them was his running-mate who argued that it made no sense for Labella to debate with Osmeña since he was already leading in the surveys.

They were scared that Labella would suffer the same fate as Jose Cuenco, who was poised to win the first post-Edsa mayoralty election in Cebu City, until a disastrous encounter with Osmeña in a televised debate. If this were a boxing match, one adviser told Labella, you are already ahead on points with only one round remaining. Why would you give your opponent a chance to knock you out when all that you needed to do was dance in the ring?

But Labella was determined to honor his word. He already said yes to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and even picked the new date for the debate when he sought its postponement because of his audience with Duterte.

The naysayers’ worst fears turned out to be unfounded. Labella did well and that’s an understatement. One can only imagine how many thousands of still undecided voters he would have turned off had he decided to chicken out of the encounter.

Four. Labella himself. A product can have the best endorsers, but if it is low in quality, it will not sell.


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