Seares: Mike Rama ‘unhappy’ about his role at City Hall but he growls, doesn’t bite

News Sense

CEBU City Vice Mayor Mike Rama’s publicized complaints last week against his mayor, Edgar Labella, may be lumped into two:

[1] Alleged hogging of policy-making on measures against the public health crisis caused by the corona-virus and the mayor’s choice of “priorities”;

[2] Alleged flaws and contradictions in the mayor’s series of executive orders and his manner of executing them.

VM Mike must refer to strategy in such campaigns as closing borders, number-coding of vehicles, day-coding of Carbon public market buyers, and giving food subsidy to the city’s poor.

Rules set by IATF

Most policies regarding quarantine were laid down by IATF-EID (Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases) and local governments cannot contradict them. LGUs may only fill in the rules on matters that the national government, through IATF and the president’s office, is silent about.

As to money to fund the counter-measures, the City Council has the power of the purse. The mayor may ask but it is the City Council that decides on spending. And Labella has been doing that but, as Rama gripes, the mayor allows the councilors in the loop only when it needs money.

Technically though, the City Council can initiate measures of its own, aside from plans coming from the mayor. Policy-making is not the mayor’s sole prerogative. There are even areas where executive action is not enough; legislative initiative or concurrence is required.

Quick action

But here’s the thing: in this time of emergency, the mayor cannot always wait for City Council action, particularly on matters already authorized or guided by IATF and the president’s office. Sometimes, the legislature, being collegial and impeded by physical-distancing norm, is not quick enough to act.

On wearing of face masks, for example, the City Council didn’t pass an ordinance punishing non-compliance as the mayor had already issued an executive order on it. Labella said there is no sanction in his EO because, he said, only the City Council could impose punishment. (Forgotten or overlooked, EO 66 contains a fine and jail term lifted from the Notifiable Diseases Act.).

Public carping, private talk

Criticizing Labella’s enforcement of the anti-Covid measures is another matter. Rama here becomes a critic of the mayor’s performance, which is odd, to say the least, since they are both on the same team, which brought them in the 2019 elections to the top offices in the city. Private talk would be less disruptive than public carping between allies.

A valid gripe between party-mates, between ex- standard bearer and ex-running mate, between chief executive and presiding officer of the legislature. But it’s also expected irritant between two possible contenders for the same post in the next elections.

Labella may not have much need for his VM during the period of emergency. And Rama may not have used yet the power of the legislature to make things difficult for the mayor.

Not biting yet

Rama is barking, even growling and showing his teeth, but he is not biting anyone yet. . In October 2019 Rama said, ala Julius Caesar, “The die is cast. I crossed the Rubicon,” Beyond resigning as chairman of the Sinulog Foundation Inc. then, he has not done any frontal assault on Labella. Even his tirade last week was not direct fire, which the mayor deflected with the curt, “It’s his opinion.” Besides, if Mike burns bridges now, to use another metaphor, he might not have the support of the majority of the Partido Barug councilors

There’d be no crossing of Rubicon yet. He couldn’t say “Iacta alea est” and, again, keep quiet and later bump elbows with the mayor when they meet. He’d lose any claim to theater and hype when he’d actually and openly war on Labella.

The emergency or crisis is the dissipator of fury, the suspender of grievance. “Huwat lang una, ‘do” is what Mike’s buddies would say to him nowadays.

VM Mike could console himself with the thought that he could still publicly speak out on local government affairs. Hilario Davide III, presiding officer of the Cebu Provincial Board and vice governor of the province, must be in worse straits. Junjun has not been seen or heard from, not at the Capitol briefings on the crisis.

The public doesn’t know, other than presumably presiding the PB sessions, what the vice governor has contributed to the fight against the plague.


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