EXPLAINER: How Mike Rama, Cebu City Council try to be in loop of response to Covid-19. Councilors can't push initiatives without the mayor, says Archival. Special session Friday seeks tell-all about the crisis.

Pachico A. Seares
·4 min read

SANGGUNIAN SCRAMBLES. On one side, the Cebu City Council tries to initiate programs to help the City Government's response to the Covid-19 crisis. As the coronavirus "surges" anew, councilors throw in their ideas.

Last Wednesday, January 27, during the Sanggunian's regular session:

[1] Councilor Philip Zafra moved for the creation of a crisis command center that gathers all the response agencies.

[2] Councilor Edu Rama proposed signage at public places exhorting people to observe health protocol. Much earlier, Councilor Alvin Dizon moved for a "massive" information drive by the City Government on benefits of vaccination and anti-Covid regulations.

[3] Councilor Dave Tumulak urged the city to buy ultra-low-temperature freezers for the coming vaccines and give money to help those who might suffer ill effects from inoculation.

[4] Vice Mayor Mike Rama wants a special session to tackle problems related to Covid, saying they must help "until our mayor fully recovers" from his ailment. Rama said they felt, even as he and Councilor Dondon Hontiveros were acting mayor and vice mayor Wednesday to Friday last week, they "just didn't want to be acting, they wanted to act."

MAYOR FOLLOWS GWEN. On the other side, the mayor, also on the same Wednesday, working from home where he was recovering from "an ear infection," Mayor Labella's disclosures told the public he was up and about, on top of the situation, monitoring and deciding.

The mayor said:

[1] The City Government negotiated, finally, with Moderna and AstraZeneca for the vaccines but had to still ink any deal as, he said it again, they'd wait for arrival of vaccines from the national government.

The vaccines the city will buy shall be only for city residents who cannot be covered by the supply from central government. The vaccine board that the mayor created, Labella said, has prepared for logistics in the roll-out such as storage facilities and priority list of recipients.

Labella said he shares the policy of Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia about vaccines, which is to "sit back and wait." The mayor added another cliché, "Haste makes waste." Apparently, they don't believe it is a "race against time," which will save lives, as the science that many world leaders and a number of LGU mayors and governors espouse.

[2] The mayor is open to the city police proposal for resetting the curfew, from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m., but would consult the different chambers of commerce regarding its impact on business.

"LABELLA MUST BE IN ON THIS." Councilor Nestor Archival, minority leader, sought to curb the enthusiasm of his colleagues in proposing anti-Covid measures and the passion of VM Rama to act on the crisis.

Wait, the mayor's office must be in on this, Archival said. It's the mayor who implements, not the councilors who merely legislate. Besides, as it turned out, the mayor was doing his thing about Covid even though for the past days since the other Wednesday, January 20, he took the three-day leave, then the work-from-home routine.

Short of Mayor Labella actually working side by side with the City Council, each must coordinate on policy and moves. Apparently, they are not.

Tumulak was talking about freezers, when the vaccine board was already scouting for and apparently found them already. For what vaccines, Archival asked, an inquiry the City Council formally raised in its January 20 session but was still not answered as of January 27.

In sum, how can the lawmakers plan without knowing "the real score" on the Covid situation?

'BRING CASAS." The two items in the Friday, January 29, special session seek to answer the questions: [1] What's the 'real score" on Covid-19 in Cebu City? [2] Which vaccines will Cebu City get and what preparations are being made?

The session would have retired general Melquiades Feliciano, IATF chief implementer for the Visayas, and Councilor Joel Garganera, who have been plotting with the city's Emergency Operations Center on the current surge of new coronavirus infections.

And, yes, it would have someone representing the mayor, specifically, City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. Presiding officer Mike Rama asked, not once but twice, Majority Floorleader Raymond Garcia to bring Casas to the special session. It's not known how many times Casas had snubbed similar Sanggunian requests in the past but during the budget hearings last December, he failed to show up.

LIAISON NEEDED. The City Council and the mayor's office -- more specifically, Mayor Labella and VM Rama -- need to consult each other on decisions related to the pandemic and similar crises.

If they can't or won't do it personally, each can appoint a liaison, the way the president's office and Congress do.

Coordination on Covid response will reduce the confusion within the Sanggunian and among the public -- and the enmity, or perception of it, between Labella supporters and Rama fans.