CAN Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella be declared incapable to perform his duties as mayor?
Such was the question members of the Cebu City Council wanted answered when they called on Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Cebu City chief Ian Kenneth Lucero to appear before the Council’s regular session on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021.
Lucero said under the Local Government Code, no official or government agency is empowered to declare an elected local official as having temporary or permanent incapacity due to health reasons.
“We have an opinion on that, rendered by the DILG central office particularly 2010-22 if with respect to health reasons or severe illness of any local official, the normal course would be for the local official to either resign or file a leave of absence which this official opts to do so, in which case, the role of succession will now be properly applied whether referring to permanent or temporary vacancy,” Lucero added.
Lucero was invited to discuss Labella’s status as the Mayor is on his seventh leave of office just for the year 2021.
Lucero acknowledged that a problem would arise if the ill official will not resign or not file a leave of absence, but on the contrary “will insist to continue to hold office when in the meantime his physical or mental sickness will not allow him to do so anymore,” Lucero said.
He explained that because there is no permanent or temporary vacancy to speak of, the rule on permanent vacancy under section 46 of the Local Government Code cannot yet be applied.
“This opinion stresses that due to lack of provision in the Local Government Code, the determination as to whether or not there is permanent or temporary vacancy due to health reasons would necessarily be an adjudicatory matter,” he said.
Majority floor leader Raymond Alvin Garcia asked Lucero if there was any law or jurisprudence on this that can be used in court. Lucero said he was not yet aware of any.
With Labella on sick leave, Vice Mayor Michael Rama performs all the functions and duties of the mayor in an acting capacity but without the power to appoint, suspend, or dismiss employees which could only be done if the mayor’s temporary absence exceeds 30 working days.
Labella has not filed absences exceeding 30 days but he has also been largely working from home in 2021.
Businessman Crisologo Saavedra who wrote a letter to the Council seeking a probe on whether Labella was still fit to function as mayor also attended the session.
Saavedra requested the Council to have a committee visit Labella to find out if he is still able to fulfill his duty as a mayor.
“People now are clamoring for transparency on what is happening in Cebu. It is not because they want that Labella will die. In fact, they want Labella to rest so he will survive,” Saavedra said during the session.
Minority floor leader Nestor Archival told Saavedra to file a case in court if he wants to know if the mayor was still fit to fulfill the role of a mayor.
Archival also called on Labella to appear before the Council even outside of a formal session just so its members would know his present health status.
Association of Barangay Captains (ABC) Cebu City President Franklyn Ong who sits as ex-officio member of the Council also requested Labella to meet the Council in August but the mayor was unable to do so.