ACTING Mayor Michael Rama’s priority is to replace the four heads of offices at Cebu City Hall whose positions became vacant after they filed their certificates of candidacy last October to run for various positions in the May 2022 elections.
But Rama won’t be able to do this unless he becomes “full mayor,” which can only happen if the ailing Mayor Edgardo Labella’s leave exceeds 30 working days.
Rama has now begun preparations for assuming this role, however, after Labella failed to return from his latest leave following the latter’s confinement again in a private hospital due to pneumonia.
Rama has been serving as acting mayor intermittently for several months this year due to the multiple instances that Mayor Labella filed a leave of absence.
Rama needs to appoint heads for the City Assessor’s Office (CAO), City Legal Office (CLO), Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) and Division for the Welfare of the Urban Poor (DWUP), which are now currently managed by assistant department heads.
Former CLO head Rey Gealon and former DWUP head Simeon Romarate are running in the City Council’s south district, while former CAO head Noel Wenceslao is seeking a seat in the north district. Former CCMC administrator Yvonne Cania is a nominee of STL party-list.
Appointed government officials who filed their certificates of candidacy or certificate of nomination and acceptance as aspirants or party-list nominees, respectively, are deemed resigned from their posts immediately, according to the Commission on Elections.
Under the Local Government Code, when a local chief executive’s leave of absence exceeds 30 working days, the acting mayor can “exercise” the “functions” of appointing, suspending and dismissing of staff and officers, Rama said.
The acting mayor said the lack of office heads had disrupted the functions of the concerned departments, which is why these should be appointed soonest to restore normal operations.
Rama said he had not yet calculated when Mayor Labella’s leave of absence would exceed 30 working days but that he would continue working as acting mayor until he would be able to appoint replacement employees.
Labella has been on indefinite leave since Oct. 8, but immediately prior to that, the mayor had already filed for a leave of absence from Sept. 20 to Oct. 7.
Based on the provisions of Section 46, paragraph A of the Local Government Code, if the mayor’s leave has exceeded 30 working days, the power to appoint shall vest in the acting mayor.
“Thus if the period of temporary incapacity exceeds thirty (30) working days, the Acting Mayor may already proceed to exercise such functions so as not to impair the delivery of vital public services,” the provision said.
But the exercise of this function must comply with the rules laid down by the Civil Service Commission.
Based on the same provision, the acting mayor can perform all the functions of a mayor except for appointment, suspension and dismissal.
Mayor Labella’s son, Edgardo “Jaybee” Labella II, confirmed that his father has been hospitalized again due to pneumonia, the reason the mayor has been in and out of the hospital since the second quarter of this year.
The younger Labella called on his father’s friends and supporters to pray for his speedy recovery.
Labella became mayor in 2019 and decided not to run again in the 2022 elections to focus on his health.
The mayor first took a medical leave this year in January after he got an ear infection.
Last May 31, he took a three-day leave after he was hospitalized for “slight pneumonia.” Last June 9, he took a three-week leave to fully recover from sepsis.
Last July 14, he took a three-day leave because of a persistent cough. He extended this leave from July 14 to Aug. 19.
He then took a six-day “personal leave” from Sept. 2 to 7, and then a leave of absence from Sept. 20 to Oct. 7, which became an indefinite leave from Oct. 8.