Espinoza: Was the threat of replacement necessary?

·3 min read

“THERE'S only one mayor and I am now the full-fledged acting mayor. Is that loud and clear?” This was the message of Acting Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama on Monday to City Hall officials and employees after the flag raising ceremony. He added: “I wish all of you should be mindful about it, so that we will only be with one direction, and that direction is making service alive. Is that clear?” Was it necessary for the acting mayor to utter those statements?

Although he did not name names, he was certainly trying to send a message across to the department heads and employees whom he might think to be uncooperative with him. Rama’s statement was a sly threat to those who would not follow his order as acting mayor because Mayor Labella is still on medical leave. Section 46 (a) of the Local Government Code grants the vice mayor as acting mayor the authority to hire and fire employees if the mayor’s leave exceeds 30 working days.

While Rama openly told different department heads of City Hall during a meeting that he will not “rock the boat,” he also announced that he will be assigning his own people to oversee the 27 City Hall departments for a month. In doing this, does Acting Mayor Rama really mean business? Or, he just doesn’t have much trust in the current 27 department heads? Such a statement is an oxymoron.

Rama’s intention to assign people he trusts to oversee how the 27 departments at City Hall shall perform may be good. But at the end of the day, this could only cause confusion, if not chaos, when his trusted men or women would start sticking their hands into the operations of each department. He said he would replace those who do not cooperate and would create problems. Rama said he keeps on telling the department heads that “all I need from all of you, just make service alive. That we’ll be our offering to our elected mayor. While he is not around, we’d perform our duties and responsibilities.” But, at the same time, he told city officials and workers that he would be with them until June 30. What if the people that Rama would appoint to oversee each department’s operations would provide him with biased reports due to personal interest over the position? Would he afford them due process? It’s clear that Rama’s intention is simple—to replace those who do not cooperate with him and appoint his chosen people. What’s holding Rama perhaps from imposing drastic actions on department heads who are not cooperative with him now that he has the authority to hire and fire is his respect for Mayor Ed Labella, who had selected and appointed these department heads.

I could tell from the words that Rama spewed during his Monday morning address to City Hall workers that he has long desired to replace the disobliging department heads holding the top posts and has the influence over the other departments and employees.

In a statement issued by the son of Mayor Labella weeks ago, it’s clear that the mayor is not resigning as the city mayor despite the state of his health because, accordingly, he has unfinished work at City Hall. Even though Rama by law now has the full authority of the city mayor, he cannot yet sit as the city’s mayor unless Mayor Labella tenders his resignation.

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