Malilong: Mabatid’s City Hall witch

Frank Malilong
·3 min read

Niña Mabatid was a reluctant candidate in 2019. Before the start of the campaign period, she called then Vice Mayor Edgar Labella to inform him of her intention to withdraw her certificate of candidacy for Cebu City councilor because she was affected by the intrigues that she had been hearing. Labella was in the United States at that time and because of the time difference, he practically lost an entire night’s sleep trying to persuade his candidate to stay in the ticket.

She did. But the talks that she would be junked by her party mates must have left an indelible mark in her so that during the campaign, she was mostly on her own, to the displeasure of many other members of the Barug slate. Her style proved to be effective as she won handily, placing second behind veteran Nestor Archival in the north district. But at a steep cost: she lost whatever goodwill in a number of her fellow PDP Barug candidates, especially those who lost.

Mabatid wasn’t the only PDP Barug candidate who took some convincing before deciding to run in that election. The actor Richard Yap’s career was doing quite well and he was hesitant to forsake it in favor of a stab at the congressional seat in the city’s north district.

Few, if any, gave Yap a Chinaman’s chance (no pun intended) of winning. Aside from being a political neophyte, he faced an almost impregnable opponent in incumbent Raul del Mar, who still had to lose an election since 1987. Despite the odds, Yap was prevailed upon to sign in on the Barug ticket on the understanding, my sources say, that it was only a trial run and that the real thing was in 2022 when Raul shall have been barred from running under the constitution. (Raul was unable to finish his term; he died in November last year.)

I am not sure if Yap intends to hold the party to their promise. We have not heard from him since he lost. Mabatid, on the other hand, has made no attempt to hide her congressional ambitions, which is understandable. She is a proven winner.

The other day, a friend sent a screenshot of a Mabatid Facebook post. “Cebu City is a big mess,” the caption read. Underneath it was a litany of her frustrations over the way City Hall is being managed and her inability to do something about it even if she had the solutions because she is only a councilor and “they” who make the plans have not given her, despite her being an elected official, any importance.

It is tempting and easy to read politics into the text of Mabatid’s post. From the way she painted herself to be an outcast, she seems resigned to the fact that she will not be her party’s bet for Cebu City north congressman next year. Yap, maybe. Or somebody else. Just not her.

But she raises certain very important issues that should not be swept under the rug simply because her motives are not pure, assuming that they are indeed not. First of all, who are “they”? She couldn’t be referring to Labella because as the mayor, it is his duty to run City Hall the way he sees fit without anyone accusing him of “nagbuot-buot” (interfering).

Who then is the “ungo” (witch) that she claims has been doing everything at City Hall, including choosing the rice suppliers and dictating upon “puppet” councilors what to do with the budget and how, and whom to give and whom not to give favors?

Mabatid said she is not afraid of the City Hall witch. If it is true, why doesn’t she identify him or her? For the sake of the people of Cebu City, half of whom could be your constituents in Congress, do it now, Councilor Niña.