CEBU CITY Mayor Edgardo Labella wore a mask when he delivered his State of the City Address (Soca) last Wednesday. The obvious intent was to drive home the message that mask-wearing is not an option but a duty for everyone, including high government officials. But it also helped him hide facial expressions that would have betrayed the myriad of feelings he had while addressing his colleagues in the city government.
Considering how he had been shamed, cursed and stabbed in the back during the last few months, it would not have been surprising if he spent much of his speech getting back at his tormentors. But again, he took the high moral ground, asking everyone to unite and set aside politics during this time of crisis. That, to me, was the highlight of his message.
I rate last Wednesday’s address as a success. Labella is a good communicator; he connects with the audience almost effortlessly. The problem is that he does not do it as frequently as he should. He should know that perception is reality when you are a public official. It is not enough that you are doing good; you have to let the people know what you are doing.
The Soca is done only once a year but nothing precludes him from regularly addressing his constituency, using a similar framework. An environment that is filled with anxiety cannot afford wait for a leadership that is visible. If Labella does not provide it, others will try to fill the vacuum.
Labella is doing a good job in navigating the city through this crisis; his loudest critics couldn’t have done any better. His challenge is to let the city hear the facts directly from him and feel his presence. He cannot allow his enemies to win the battle for the truth by default. That would be tragic.
Speaking of hearing directly from the official in charge, here’s Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera saying that the positivity rate of those tested for the coronavirus is down from 30 percent to only 16 percent. Joel knows whereof he speaks since he is the deputy chief implementer of the Inter-Agency Task Force Emergency Operations Center in Cebu City.
SunStar Cebu, which broke the story on the dramatic decline yesterday, defined “positivity rate” as the “percentage of people who tested positive for Covid-19 in the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test out of all those who were tested.” I take that to mean that in the past, 30 out of 100 people who were swab-tested were found to have the coronavirus infection but now it is down to “only” 16.
There is a need to clarify this and put Joel’s pronouncement in perspective. When he says 30 and 16 percent positivity rates, what is his base, the general population, including those for whom testing is merely an option, or only those who have to be tested because of relevant travel or exposure?
I believe that it is the latter so that if and when we include those who have availed of the “drive-thru” and “walk-thru” free testing in the computation of the positivity rate, it will be much lower than 16 percent. Otherwise, the IATF, the DOH and City Hall will have their hands full tracing the remaining 150,000 plus (we have logged 8,377 confirmed cases so far), who are positive but have not yet been tested.
But I would like to hear it from the IATF deputy czar for Cebu City himself.