Malilong: Real leaders shine during a crisis

Frank Malilong

REMEMBER Rudy Guiliani? He was the mayor of New York when terrorists struck the city on Sept. 11, 2001. The leadership that he displayed in the aftermath of the attack earned him a Person of the Year award from Time Magazine and an honorary knighthood from England’s Queen Elizabeth II.

A crisis or, more accurately, how you respond to it can make or unmake a political career. Incumbent local chief executives are aware of this, although they will not be caught saying that boosting their political stock is a motivation behind their response to the coronavirus scare. And that could very well be the truth, too.

Still, regardless of whether they seek it or not, judgment awaits our local LGU heads now, more than two years before they’re up for re-election. Is he providing the steadying hand that we so badly need in this period of uncertainty? Does the sight of him or even hearing or reading about his plans bring comfort and reassurance?

If gold is assayed in the furnace, so is leadership tested and exposed by a crisis. Real leaders are authoritative, capable of making even unpopular decisions when they have to. They do not have to worry about being perceived as rude, which is not a bad thing by the way, when rudeness is required to deliver a strong message. They’re running a government, not a candidacy for Ms. Congeniality.

I heard that when Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia summoned stakeholders to a conference to discuss ways to ease the burden on the business sector, she scolded those who said they could not commit to anything because they did not have the authority. “So why are you here,” she reportedly asked. That’s leadership.

When Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella ordered the closure of many business establishments despite pressure from friends and supporters, he showed leadership.

We hope to see more from them and from the other Cebu LGU heads as we continue to cope with a threat that we may have to live with for a long time. For example, while the people do not like a lockdown, I hope they would not think twice about imposing it if and when the need arises.

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The subnational Covid-19 testing center at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center started operating last Friday. I was told that because of the complexity of the testing procedure, it was able to run fewer than 50 tests during its opening day.

Still, the development is a very welcome one and we should thank the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, Sec. Michael Dino, for bringing the laboratory to Cebu. To quote the W.H.O. director general, without a testing center, fighting the Covid-19 epidemic is like fighting a fire blindfolded.

“We cannot stop this epidemic if we do not know who is infected,” he said. Incidentally, is it true that among those who have already been tested were those who joined a meeting that the lady friend of the first confirmed Covid-19 patient in Cebu also attended? A source said that among those present in that gathering were doctors and public officials.

The patient has since recovered and discharged from the hospital while the results of the test taken on his lady friend were negative. But even as they heaved a sigh of relief, those who came into contact with her still had themselves tested for added reassurance. They’re still awaiting the results.