Malilong: Will he be a one-term mayor?

·3 min read

It has been more than a week since Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella returned to work after an extended medical leave. He has not gone back to City Hall, though, preferring to instead work at home as a precautionary measure because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the filing of certificates of candidacy for the 2022 elections happening in a little more than a month from today, I expect to hear the mayor announce his political plans anytime. As the incumbent — and duly elected — mayor, Labella should have more than a little role in shaping the future of the PDP Laban Barug coalition.

In fact, I find it odd that he’s not in the conversation on who will run for mayor in 2022. It seems that everyone is assuming that Labella will not seek reelection and the administration party’s nomination is Vice Mayor Michael Rama’s or even Joey Daluz’s for the taking.

Is Labella taking a leave from politics? It is likely but I’d like to hear it from him.

During the many conversations that we had while doing our Walk and Talk exercise mornings at the former Cebu City Sports Center (now the Cebu City Mega Quarantine Center), Labella always said that he would not mind becoming a one-term mayor if it was what it would take for him to become a good one.

Everything in this life is fleeting, he would say. “Wealth, power, office and most especially life. It is our reputation that we leave behind and I will never do anything to sully the good name of my Papa Gene.”

I have not spoken to, not even exchanged messages with, him for months. But I am sure that he remains committed to his vow not to cling to power and that he would quit when it is the right thing to do. Edgar is an honorable man.

It is just unfortunate that if he should quit politics, it would be under these circumstances. Having been vice mayor for six years, he was prepared to assume the management of the city’s affairs. What he was not prepared against — nobody can honestly claim that he was — was the pandemic.

The week before he declared a quarantine in Cebu, we were on the same plane to Manila, he to attend a meeting with President Duterte, I to join a workshop. Some Metro Manila mayors are edgy and want a lockdown, he said, but his opinion as president of the League of Cities was that it was not yet time.

That time came rather swiftly. You will be tested, I warned him, this could make or unmake you. He took the challenge seriously, refusing to work from home as other city officials did, because he wanted to be with his people. It was a sacrifice that was ignored and unappreciated.

From the body language of his political allies, it seems that they have made up their minds about Edgar not seeking reelection and that an announcement is forthcoming. He will be a one-term mayor but when he bows out of office, he is secure in the thought that he has not sullied his father’s good name. His Papa Gene should be beaming with pride.

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