MY DECISION to jump into the fray, sort of, after I retired in 2019 was a good one. I saw up close the extent of the lack of organization political campaigns are done. That gives me a better appreciation of how my previous group managed things despite the limitations in resources and movement.
My initial impression of political campaigns is that these are done in an organized manner, with everybody moving in unison. What I found out was that campaigns can be chaotic, with everybody doing their thing for as long as the candidates win. Even political parties are not that well organized, which proves the superiority of, say, the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Perhaps this was also because I was just a minor cog in the 2019 political campaign in Cebu City, so I was unable to grasp the inner goings at the top. I was unable to see, for example, how the parties propping up the campaign of then candidate Edgardo Labella, who eventually won, worked. I was very particular with organizational structures and hierarchies, but I failed to see much of that.
That is why I consider myself as incompetent to judge the response of the Labella administration to the Covid-19 pandemic because I don’t have enough information on how the mayor used the bureaucracy and the supporting group to come up with a coherent response. That was why I welcomed the entry of Roy Cimatu, a former general because at least he has a long experience working with a very coherent organizational setup.
Many of the personalities Mayor Labella is now relying on in his governance were also major players in the 2019 campaign. Which gives me a feeling the same seemingly anarchic setup prevailed in his administration’s response to the pandemic. I often ask myself, did the lack of a coherent response contribute to the failure to effectively prevent the spread of the virus?
For example, how did the mayor use the personalities and personnel who are at his beck and call? I was once a member of a group that effectively combined personal with collective leadership, so I ask: How collective was the planning and decision-making in the City’s response to Covid-19?
In my experience, that starts below and ends at the top. Below are the barangay officials who are at the frontlines and whose opinions are valuable in making a coherent Covid-19 response. Were meetings involving them held? How well organized is the Association of Barangay Councils in the city? Is it so riven by politics it cannot transcend that so it can respond in unison to a problem like a pandemic?
At the upper echelon is the executive and legislative branches, now dominated by the group of the mayor. The noise made earlier by Vice Mayor Michael Rama could signal a faulty organizational setup at the top. Did the mayor constantly meet with the vice mayor and the city councilors to solicit their views prior to making decisions. Did they help craft a coherent Covid-19 response?
Finally, a reminder. Covid-19 protocols limit the practice of collective leadership (physical distancing, wearing of face masks, etc.) City officials can just be creative in doing their jobs.