I MAY have spoken too soon because the day I wrote that column praising the appointment of Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera to an important post under the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) battling the spread of the coronavirus in the country, statements by Garganera criticizing the release on social media by Mayor Edgardo Labella of his executive order on the so-called granular lockdown in the city and by City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. answering Garganera’s statement appeared online.
Those statements were lapped up by both the political opposition in the city and by even the ordinary critics of the Labella administration. For me, it only showed how much the mayor should work in ironing out the kinks in his organization. I think both Labella and Garganera, and Casas too, are mature enough to know that the City’s constituents would be better served if they are united, especially now that we are still battling a pandemic.
I say the root cause there is that Garganera’s appointment created two centers of power in the city on the matter of implementing measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Garganera is both a city councilor and Labella’s party mate. In the organizational hierarchy, Garganera ranks lower than the mayor.
But he is currently the deputy chief implementer for the IATF’s Emergency Operation Center, a task that has him directly responsible to the chief implementer, retired general Melquiades Feliciano. There is a delicate balancing act there, and Garganera needs to recognize that. In the end, when the crisis is resolved and the IATF breaks up camp in Cebu City, Labella will be back to governing the city with Garganera an ally in the City Council.
Garganera can choose to leave Barug and Labella can let Garganera go but both will end up as losers. The Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan, I am sure, would be willing to accept Garganera to its fold like it did another bitter Tomas Osmeña critic, Mary Ann de los Santos, but would Garganera be happy being answerable to the former mayor? He can go independent but that would be living in political limbo.
As for the mayor, that would mean losing an ally in a City Council wherein his control is precarious. And Garganera is no ordinary City Council member. He can be considered a key ally of the Labella administration, meaning that his loss would be greatly felt. What I am saying is that Labella and Garganera both need each other and should just let this most recent episode pass.
As for Gargsnera, he should learn from this experience. He is a veteran politician and therefore knows how to navigate through egos and clashing personal and political interests. I talked with Garganera the few times I was in City Hall and had nothing to do and know some bits of his frustrations as a public servant and politician. But he is already lucky enough to be in a position of power and, should I say, privilege. He should learn to do his balancing act well.