BEFORE he could start his official duties as the new mayor of Cebu City on Monday, July 1, 2019, outgoing Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella met a surprise—the mayor’s office had been disconnected of its plumbing system and electrical connection, and it had been stripped of its ceiling, tiles and toilet bowl.
The office has been occupied by Mayor Tomas Osmeña since 2016, after he defeated then mayor Michael Rama. The politician, the grandson of the fourth Philippine President Sergio Osmeña Sr., was defeated by Labella in the May 13, 2019 midterm elections.
Osmeña’s last day as mayor fell on Friday, June 28, as the Constitution-mandated assumption date of office of newly elected officials (noontime of June 30) falls on a Sunday.
He was not seen at the City Hall on Friday.
On Thursday night, June 27, around 20 men—reportedly from a private construction firm—entered the City Hall and “vandalized” the mayor’s office, according to the guard’s testimony and security camera footage. The office is on the eighth floor of the annex building.
The “destruction” of the mayor’s office started at 8 p.m. Thursday and ended at dawn Friday, and special assistant to the mayor Raymond Paul Taboada supervised the construction workers.
Outgoing Department of General Services head Ronald Malacora clarified that the brown cabinet, light and plumbing fixtures, partitions, door, ceiling and tiles are owned by Osmeña.
For his part, Labella was stunned by what his predecessor did to the mayor’s office. The two politicians had been allies at the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan, before Labella joined the group of Rama, who broke ties with Osmeña. Rama is the incoming vice mayor.
“The ruin of the city mayor’s office is hard to believe. It’s a shocker. But as I reflect on it, perhaps it is no more than a microcosm of the way someone has left an entire city in shambles,” Labella said.
Lawyers Floro Casas and Rey Gealon—incoming city administrator and legal officer, respectively—also inspected the office, and the scene inside the office of the city’s most powerful man appalled them.
“We are stunned because we are about to transfer the things of mayor-elect Labella from the vice mayor’s office here on the eighth floor because his new office (on the ground floor of the executive building) has been undergoing repair,” Gealon said.
He said it would have been tolerable if Osmeña’s camp had taken just the furniture, which is reportedly owned by the outgoing mayor.
However, Gealon could not accept the act of vandalizing the public office. He said Labella would continue to occupy Osmeña’s former office, and the damaged ceiling would be covered with a tarp to protect the new mayor from being hit by any debris that might fall off.
Osmeña, who was mayor from 2001 to 2010 and from 2016 to the present, is the first mayor to hold office on the eighth floor. The floor-to-ceiling windows in his office allowed him to see the South Road Properties and the Cebu South Coastal Road.
Osmeña said he just transformed his office back to its original state.
He said his office had no partition back in 2001, and it was bare concrete. He transformed his office with the help of contractors and suppliers of construction materials.
“What I really did was (that) I spent for it; I took it out. I am restoring what it was all the way back to 2001,” Tomas told reporters in a phone conference.
When Michael Rama became mayor, the office was converted into a reception area for high-profile visitors. Rama is the incoming vice mayor.
Rama, who won as mayor in 2010 and 2013, was granted by the City Council P9 million for the improvement of his office. He chose to hold office on the ground floor of the annex building, saying he did not want his constituents to have to go all the way up to the eighth floor if they wanted to see the mayor.
After defeating Rama in the mayoral race in 2016, Osmeña asked the City Council to appropriate P2 million for the improvement of his office. But it was not given to him, he said.
Osmeña said he is not worried about the complaints planned to be filed against Taboada and other persons. The City Legal Office would look into the possibility of including Osmeña as a respondent. (from PAC of SuperBalita Cebu/KAL/LRC)