EXPLAINER: Mike Rama now 'full-fledged' mayor but still acting mayor. Labella not resigning, says son, despite new ICU stint after series of medical leaves.

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THE press-con held Tuesday, November 2, by the family of Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella set off the speculation (1) he'd resign because of physical incapacity, highlighted by the disclosure he was taken over the weekend to a hospital's intensive care unit after a series of medical leaves, and (2) Acting Mayor Michael Rama would be a "full-fledged" mayor.

Labella didn't resign and was not resigning, according to his son Jaypee at the press-con. Labella is still the mayor and Rama the acting mayor although there is no more restriction on his powers as acting chief executive. In the legal sense, he is now a "full-fledged" mayor.

MAJOR CHANGE IN RAMA'S POWER. Although he continues to be acting mayor, Vice Mayor Rama can now exercise the power denied him before: the power to appoint, suspend or dismiss employees.

Under Section 46 (a) of the Local Government Code, A.M. Rama has been performing ALL the powers and duties pertaining to the office of the mayor, except the hiring-suspending-firing function.

The ban, however, is lifted if the mayor's physical incapacity exceeds 30 working days. And the limit was reached recently when, as Labella was to end his seventh medical leave last October 7, he extended it indefinitely.

If and when Mayor Labella returns to office before the term of the 2019 elected officials expire on June 30, 2022, he cannot change, amend or revise decisions of A.M. Rama, unless of course they are unlawful and outside the powers of the mayor or the local government.

LABELLA'S HEALTH. The Labella family -- wife Jocelyn and sons Edgardo II ("Jaypee") and Eugene -- said the mayor was admitted to the ICU "for another episode of pneumonia" and "indications (were) he was suffering from minor sepsis." A news report quoted Eugene as saying the sepsis was prevented and the mayor is now recuperating in a regular private room.

["Rama knows Labella's state of health but leaves it to family to tell," Bzzzzz, October 6, 2021. "Seven takeaways on Mayor Labella's health issue," Explainer, October 2, 2021.]

It was the first time the family, in full force, talked about his medical condition. Other "disclosures," most of which were already known before from Jaypee and/or City Administrator Floro Casas Jr., included:

[a] The mayor was diagnosed with prostate cancer 12 years ago, operated on and treated, the cancer "under control";

[b] Admitted to the hospital in January 2021, for ear infection, then for sepsis, from which "he almost died";

[c] Hospitalized a number of times after that, causing the serial medical leaves, was admitted last July to the ICU for pneumonia;

[d] Doctors are monitoring his antigen level "because of his previous prostate cancer."

MAYOR'S DISCRETION. As mentioned in a previous SunStar story on Mayor Labella's health, the mayor has almost total discretion whether to declare himself physically incapacitated so as the vice mayor can take over permanently.

The fact is there is no evidence that Labella is -- or is not -- permanently physically incapacitated. Even a doctor or a doctor's certificate, none of which the Labella family produced, may not tell that the mayor won't recover and resume his duties.

The family's version, which his supporters and friends support and his city constituents pray for, is that he will be in good health again.

During the past several months, Labella had short medical leaves that didn't exceed 30 days, thus barring the acting mayor from exercising fully his powers as mayor. (Nobody has ascertained if under the law the 30-day period must be uninterrupted.)

A.M. Rama is now a full-fledged mayor and thus will have fewer excuses for failure of performance or deficient service. When asked by a reporter Tuesday if there would now be a change of direction or intensity in leading the City, Rama talked about being "complete." "Before I adjusted to them (co-workers in City Hall)," he said, "now they adjust to me." Did that answer the question?

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