CEBU. Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama (right) with his wife and son.
CEBU. Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama (right) with his wife and son.Photo from Mike Rama Facebook page

Seares: Looking for Mayor Rama when he's on official leave and Cebu City has an acting mayor and acting vice mayor. Seven takeaways from the teasing/criticizing.

The mayor and his lieutenants should worry more if nobody would care to ask where he is and what he's doing

[1] OF PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE AND OFFICIAL. Last October 31, 2023, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama announced he'd go on leave for a one-month vacation in Australia with his wife and children. He was scheduled to return Monday, November 27, and reassume office December 1, Friday. That didn't and won't happen. Last November 23, he said he'd extend the vacation, until December 20 "at the most."

Both announcements were publicized in City Hall and private media and obviously the vacation and its extension are official.

And the positions vacated temporarily by Mayor Mike's leave are filled and will continue to be filled until he's back at City Hall. Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia is acting as mayor and No. 1 Councilor Dondon Hontiveros is acting vice mayor and City Council presiding officer. There are no gaps in leadership and governance, in legal theory at least.

[2] LOOKING FOR THE MAYOR. "Cebu Updates" -- a Facebook page that Mayor Rama's key officials and legal advisers Collin Rosell and Jerone Castillo have threatened to go after -- during the first 20 hours of Monday, November 27, ran at least five posts about the mayor's absence from the city.

Talk about the absence is obviously exaggerated, for effect most probably, because most everyone knows where the mayor is.

Five CU posts lead off with one asking, "Asang Mayor? #PauliNaIntawon," and another saying, "Mayor ug naa pakay kalooy namo diri sa Cebu City, uli na, pero og wala kay kalooy, diha nalang ka." Obviously laced with bits of irony and humor, and some bad taste, such as "cge larga uban iya katabang, ay este asawa ug pamilya."

[3] WHEN FINDING MIKE IS COOL. While looking for the city's chief executive is standard task of media, it is not done if the public, which media serves, knows full well where he or she is and why. Usually media looks for the mayor when his leaving is surreptitious, the real purpose is covered up (such as hiding an illness and getting undisclosed medical treatment), or government money is used for a private purpose.

Otherwise, it's cool only as a tease, a joke or even an endearment to someone who is missed.

[4] THRUST OF CRITICISM. The criticism may be properly laid on purpose and frequency. The use of "larga-larga" and "suroy-suroy" by critics suggest that Mayor Mike has been going on several trips abroad mostly for personal benefit. The mayor's reply to that: This current vacation is his first "since the early 2000" with his wife and all his children present; in fact, he said, the extension would achieve that purpose, with one child going back to Australia just for that.

There's a difference in the claims, which with more facts the public can choose who's right but for now just speculate about or dismiss away.

[5] HOW ABOUT THE NEED FOR THE MAYOR? The structure of the local government is not such that the chief executive cannot go away for a vacation or some other purpose of the leave of absence. There's a mechanism for vacancy, temporary or permanent, a system of succession.

And surely, the public won't mind their mayor taking a breather, enjoying a rest, or recuperating from some illness. With the energy shown by Mayor Mike, particularly in his current term, he must deserve time off, especially when he spends it with his family.

The respite is good not only for officials taking time off but also for the structure itself, whether it can survive the absence of the top leader, and the temps or substitutes so they can be prepared in any possible disruption.

[6] ROBBERIES A REASON FOR MIKE TO RUSH HOME? Maybe if the resurgence of crime has become so serious as to demand the mayor's personal presence. But if the acting city officials are on it, the police are doing their job (as of this writing, two robbery suspects who posed as NBI agents were arrested at a police checkpoint in Sibonga, Cebu), and the City Hall burglary could be an inside job. City Hall employees are worried about their Christmas bonus? That's a clerical error that Councilor Noel Wenceslao said the Sanggunian already corrected.

Critics at times cannot agree on the matter of a mayor who's absent from City Hall. Look at the dissonance: Had Mayor Mike left without naming the vice mayor as acting mayor, he would've been blamed for not trusting the VM to manage the City and not observing vacancy rules. Even as there are criticisms that say Mayor Rama couldn't keep his hands off City Hall during his absence, complaining that he still issues orders over the City Hall radio station even as he's vacationing outside the country.

[7] SIMPLE FOLK ASK ABOUT THEIR MAYOR. Some noise in a sector of social media says that some fans of the late mayor Edgardo Labella are asking where Mayor Rama is, the same way then vice mayor Rama publicly asked where the mayor was, even though the latter was just a phone call away.

Karma, one suggested. Wait, it's not Rama who's pissed off by the inquiries; it's some of his lieutenants. Veteran mayors like Mike (two terms plus completed; the third term still running) know there's something wrong if constituents wouldn't ask for or about their mayor.

Just as "simple folk" would ask about their "king" in the 1982 play "Camelot," the city's plain citizens would like to know where their mayor is, what he's doing. A few who're not content with whistling, write their inquiry on the internet.

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