EXPLAINER: Permanent succession at Cebu City Hall: Mike Rama, Dondon Hontiveros who’re now mayor, vice mayor. What they inherit, in 7 takeaways on Labella’s death.

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[1] FILLING VACANCIES. Cebu City Vice Mayor Michael Rama took over the office of Mayor Edgardo Labella serving as acting mayor. In as many times, Councilor Donald “Dondon” Hontiveros, No. 1 councilor in the 2019 elections, assumed as acting vice mayor. When Acting Mayor Rama Monday, November 15 started his two-week leave of absence (until November 30, 2021), Hontiveros assumed as acting mayor, David Tumulak, No. 2 councilor in the last elections, assumed as acting vice mayor. Councilor Nestor Archival Sr., minority floorleader, is next in line, just in case. That’s the rule on permanent vacancies under the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act #7160).

As acting vice mayor, Rama didn’t become a full-fledged mayor until Labella’s leave of absence exceeded 30 days, which was only during his last leave. At any time then, had he recovered from his illness, he could have simply declared he was returning to office. Whatever, he was not bound by law to disclose the exact nature of his illness.

[2] PERMANENT UNTIL JUNE 30. The vacancies are permanent, Rama and Hontiveros are no longer acting mayor and vice mayor. But their term is only until June 30, 2022. Both are running in the May election: Rama for mayor but Hontiveros seeks reelection as councilor. Barug’s candidate for VM is Sanggunian Majority Floorleader Raymond Alvin Garcia. Hontiveros declares himself an independent in his COC although he publicly said he, with Councilor Phillip Zafra, terminated their independence and returned to Barug as official candidates. Hontiveros will keep his ranking if he tops in number of votes. Ranking in the Sanggunian under the law is determined “on the basis of proportion of votes obtained by each winning candidate to the total number of registered voters in each district in the preceding election.”

[3] LABELLA’S CAUSE OF DEATH. “Septic shock secondary to pneumonia” was the cause of death, which occurred at 4 a.m. Friday, November 19. He turned 70 last May 21. His son Edgardo “Jaypee” Labella Jr. is not a doctor, but no one questioned his information, unlike before when City Administrator Floro Casas Jr., then later his family, made the announcement about his leaves of absence and the illness that caused each. Including these: ear infection last May 31, slight pneumonia on May 31, sepsis or blood infection on June 9, a persistent cough on July 14. Last year, on September 3, 2020, he underwent gallbladder surgery; the day before he himself announced he was diagnosed with gallbladder stones. Sepsis with pneumonia was often cited as the illnesses that prompted his serial leaves of absence, which however didn’t exceed 30 days at each leave, until his last leave that did.

[4] ISSUE ABOUT THE ILLNESSES. A recurring controversy during the late mayor’s succession of leaves of absence for more than a year revolved on these: (a) Should the mayor have disclosed fully the nature and extent of his illnesses? (b) Were the public and some government officials, including his vice mayor Mike Rama, being harsh and, in Mike’s case, “greedy” in demanding full disclosure?

Those who said no cited “privacy” of Labella and “sensitiveness” to his family, slamming the alleged indecent haste and selfishness by those rushing for power at City Hall. Those who demanded transparency relied on the requirement of public welfare and interest. Labella’s cordon succeeded in keeping a secret much of his physical condition, dramatized by his admission last June 8 that he “almost died” back in January.

READ: Seares: What Mayor Labella did not tell us last January: ‘I almost died’... What Dondon dunks in now: not basketballs

[5] LABELLA’S 10 GOALS PLUS MIKE’S OWN. Labella had a 10-point agenda, which his Labella for Mayor Movement pushed in the 2019 election campaign, Last Monday, November 15, then acting mayor Rama said he’d continue “plus some” of his own. When Labella addressed the City Council for the first time on June 30, 2019, he repeated his 10 priorities: flooded areas, business landscape, traffic, garbage, full payment of the loan for South Road Properties, the new Cebu City Medical Center building, uniforms and feeding for schoolchildren, Cebu City College, peace and order, and Carbon Market.

Rama, now as “permanent” mayor who’d like that permanence to last beyond June 30, 2022, most likely will continue the pursuit of those goals, aside from the current preoccupation of local governments: to manage Covid-19 and to rebuild the economy that has suffered because of the public health crisis.

[6] CRY OF CONTINUING “LEGACY,” FOLLOWING “‘MARCHING ORDER.” Any mayor should have a legacy to leave, although not much is done by a one-term chief executive, in Labella’s case, only a fraction of the term, with a plague inflicting havoc on his programs and projects. The test eventually was on how he handled the pandemic and made the suffering by most constituents bearable.

Still, Mike Rama Jaypee Labella talked about Mayor Labella’s legacy. Dondon Hontiveros Friday, November 19, talked about the deceased mayor’s “marching order.”

[7] WHAT RAMA, DONDON INHERIT. The vice mayor -- who served as acting mayor several times during Labella’s absences -- will sit as mayor for the rest of Labella’s term. He said more than once that it was not what he sought election for in 2019. He must have meant he didn’t expect all this but as vice mayor, which he fought hard for in the last campaign, this is part of the job description. He is the spare tire; he can’t say that it’s not what the spare tire is for.

Along with Labella’s unexpired term, Mike Rama inherits something less pleasant: defending Labella’s -- and his -- administration against the attacks of election rivals.

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