Malilong: People’s mayor

The other side

A FRIEND went to visit Mayor Edgar Labella at his office in City Hall the other day. The size of the crowd waiting for their turn to see the mayor almost made him turn back.

There must be hundreds of people who troop to City Hall daily: job applicants, courtesy callers, supporters and ordinary citizens who just want to catch a glimpse of their mayor and, if they’re lucky, press his hand and exchange hellos with him.

It is an exhausting routine but the mayor doesn’t seem to get tired, one of his most trusted men, City Treasurer Jerone Castillo, told me, also the other day. He tries to accommodate everyone and listens to their stories even if briefly.

Hopefully, the stream of visitors will slacken in the next few weeks. Shuffling between entertaining callers and tackling the city’s myriad of problems can only be very taxing and eventually one or the other will have to take the back seat.

As I wrote in an earlier column, no other mayor in the history of Cebu City has assumed office burdened with so much expectations. Labella has not disappointed, so far. Yesterday, while we were jog-walking at the Cebu City sports oval, someone came to tell him that garbage in her place has been regularly collected for two weeks now.

He was in Tag-bao immediately after a landslide hit the area early one morning last week and had the road that was blocked by the stray earth cleared immediately. When he learned about the death of a boy who fell into a manhole, he immediately directed that all manholes be safely covered. He has cleared the Carbon market and persuaded occupants of portions of Quezon Boulevard to move back.

But so much remains to be done. There’s the problem of relocating the fire victims of Sitio Silangan near Pier 4, who have built houses on the sidewalk, exposing themselves and their children to the risk of traffic accidents. The promised dredging of rivers and waterways still has to start and traffic remains bad.

Labella is off to a good start. His humility has rubbed off on his men and his willingness to entertain both the poor and the rich, the perfumed and the smelly, and the important and the insignificant is beginning to make people talk of him as the people’s mayor.

But things can change in a jiffy, especially public opinion. I heard some people claim before that they will just do their job without caring about what the others say or think but that is an illusion. It is difficult to do what you want to do, no matter how “noble-intentioned” you may be, if public perception is against you.

Fortunately, while people change their opinions quickly, there is still reason that guides their judgment. For as long as Labella walks his talk during the campaign and produces tangible results, the public will continue to applaud and inspire him, the fickleness of human nature notwithstanding.


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