Editorial: Osmeña vs. Labella

VICE Mayor Edgardo Labella does not usually engage in the blame game, but he did recently on the issue of the “monstrous” traffic problem on Natalio Bacalso Ave. where the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is constructing an underpass. As Mayor Tomas Osmeña seeks the help of the Cebu City Council, Labella reminded him of his role in the mess.

The mayor wants the city council to declare a state of emergency that would empower him to allow public utility jeepneys (PUJs) to pass the Cebu South Coastal Road and ease the traffic in Mambaling where work on the underpass is ongoing. Labella’s response:

“The ‘state of emergency’ that the mayor now wants the City Council to declare should be viewed in this light. He now projects himself as a monster slayer when the truth is that he is the monster’s father.”

Labella is among the two opposition personalities set to challenge Osmeña in the mayoral race next year. The other is former mayor Michael Rama, whom Osmeña defeated in 2016. In a way, this would place in context Labella’s seeming change of character, although he was right in reminding the mayor of his insistence on pushing through with the implementation of the underpass project even without adequate preparation, especially in mapping out alternative routes.

By engaging in the blame game, Labella opened himself up to accusations of losing focus. This was how Osmeña put it: “I don’t mind taking part of the blame. But don’t take this position as if you’re not supposed to do anything. We’re exhausting all means, we’re trying everything. As we test, we’re risking failure but we test anyway.”

Meanwhile, we are given a glimpse of a possible issue Osmeña will raise in the campaign if Labella would be his opponent in next year’s mayoral race. Labella’s character and non-combative stance is what endear him to his supporters. To deflect that, the mayor seems bent on zeroing in on performance.

Thus the question: “Mr. Labella, what are you doing? You’ve been a government official for 15 years. Why don’t you help out? Am I supposed to do everything, like figuring out which roads to widen?”

Politics in Cebu City has gotten more interesting.
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