Echaves: Hello!

WHEN Malacañang suspended then Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and 12 councilors last May, people knew it boded ill of things to come.

True enough, when Councilor Margarita Osmeña sat as acting mayor, many heads rolled. Among her first memoranda was that 3,413 casual employees would be jobless effective July 1.

Among them were 350 traffic enforcers and parking attendants, and 200 street cleaners.

Some of them have found other alternatives, such as employment overseas, in the private sector or other government offices. Others continue to call their lifelines or text friends and contacts crazy in search of alternatives.

No clearer was the race between time and catastrophe than at the Tinago Sports Complex last Saturday morning.

There, over 500 of the 1,500 seekers gathered for guidance--informational, spiritual and emotional.

They listened to their mayor Mike Rama who arrived straight from the airport, rushing to bolster their sagging spirits. Word is he had come from a meeting with former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and President Duterte in connection with the forthcoming Constitutional Convention.

They listened as well to the inspirational and impassioned message from Vice Mayor Labella who, together with Councilors Joel Garganera, Raymund Garcia, Dave Tumulak and Jun Alcover, assured them they should not feel abandoned.

If they didn’t know it yet, former councilor Franklin Seno updated the seekers on the complete range of benefits they could get from PhilHealth, such as those with relatives with diabetes, or needing dialysis, heart bypass, or kidney transplants.

If they hadn’t done so yet, they could start working towards getting their PhilHealth cards now that they have the time.

The seekers also joined focus group discussions on Community Livelihood Assistant Programs (Clap) organized by the Volunteer Assistance Group of the 75 Families of Distinction of Cebu City.

They weighed three initial options--start a business, process documents for overseas jobs and/or migration, and pursue local employment.

About two-thirds chose the third option. Understandably. The survival need was so palpable, one could touch it.

Some preferred to work again with the Cebu City Government, such as barangay health workers. This, despite knowing that reacceptance could mean only one month service after which their performance will be evaluated.

This pushed new hope in their human chests. Reportedly, Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos said the evaluation would not be determined by political affiliation. Meaning, pure meritocracy?

Was the lady councilor giving a statement of fact, or a statement of faith. And did she have the prior imprimatur of Mayor Tomas Osmeña and wife-councilor Margot?

Remember when, during the suspension of Rama, Labella and his councilors, then acting mayor Margot was asked if she would replace the job-order workers who were removed?

She said there would be replacements, but preference would be supporters of their political party BOPK. Her statement, “All things being equal, ha, who will you choose? For you or against you? I mean, hello.”

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