Seares: Ahong Chan’s ‘imports’ at Lapu-Lapu City Hall: Unusual but not prohibited

TWO from Mandaue City: the city administrator and the city legal officer. Two from Cebu City: the disaster risk reduction chief and the anti-substance abuse head. And one from the Cebu Capitol: the public information officer.

The common element is that they are experienced in their respective fields. But they are outsiders, non-natives of Lapu-Lapu City. And they will be working at Lapu-Lapu City Hall starting July 1 for incoming mayor Junard “Ahong” Chan, the man who politically slew the patriarch of the Radazas who have controlled the island city for decades.

Danilo Almendras, city administrator of outgoing Mandaue Mayor Luigi Quisumbing, had also served as Cebu City Hall manager in the 1990s. James Sayson is Luigi’s city attorney. Nagiel Bañacia was Mayor Tomas Osmena’s publicist before his current work on disaster response. Garry Lao was a barangay official-news reporter before he was tapped as head of Cebu City’s anti-drug abuse office. And Oscar Pineda was news reporter covering local governments before he served as public information officer for the Capitol.

A bit of trivia common to all five “imports”: their bosses lost in the May 13 elections and they too, being holders of confidential co-terminous positions, lost their jobs. Almendras’s and Sayson’s mayor, LQ, was ousted by the congressman, Jonas Cortes. Bañacia’s and Lao’s mayor, Tomas Osmena, was drubbed by the vice mayor, Edgar Labella. And Pineda’s candidate for governor, Agnes Magpale, was defeated by the congresswoman, Gwen Garcia, although Gov. Junjun Davide, who slid down to the position of vice governor, won.

What it means

But what does bringing in “outside talent” tell us of incoming Mayor Ahong’s team?

Apparently, the group that worked for or actively supported Chan during the campaign didn’t have enough people to fill the key posts at Capitol. Ahong didn’t have a deep bench of talents. Having served mostly as barangay captain, he didn’t have aides who could, say, manage the city or run its major departments.

Another factor is that he was not perceived as the winner. To some Lapu-Lapu City watchers, Ahong’s win was, at best, an upset; at worst, a fluke. Team Libre’s political machinery didn’t come close in efficiency to that of its rival Team Deretso of the entrenched Radaza clan. Worse, Ahong’s bid was hounded by his initial disqualification, which Comelec officially cleared up just a few days before May 13, election day. And the opposition--though running under PDP-Laban, the national party--was, as in past elections, hopelessly divided.

Unprepared for victory

Chan won by 19,868 votes, which must have surprised everyone, including Ahong and his camp. The element of the unexpected must have also contributed to the new mayor’s decision to look for personnel timber elsewhere. And this: Not to fire anyone in the City Hall work force, at least not immediately. All indicate seeming unpreparedness for the victory, worsened by one bitter offshoot: the reported threat of Radaza loyalists not to report for work starting July 1.

Bias against the incumbent apparently helped bring about the toppling of the Radazas at City Hall. Not a wipeout though. The clan still occupies Lapu-Lapu’s lone congressional seat, with Mayor Paz Radaza switching coats of power and replacing her daughter Aileen. And Chan’s fight is not over.

All the help he can get

He faces the prospect of having a combative City Council and an uncooperative civil service, whose employees still have to learn to shed off their loyalty to the Radazas and work diligently for their local government, whoever the elected mayor is.

Even before Day 1 of Chan’s term, his rivals are already licking wounds and preparing for the next battle.

Ahong obviously needs all the help he can get, even from those with no roots in, or affinity to, the city.


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