Malilong: Standing up the mayor

Frank Malilong

A PARTY-LIST congressman invited Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella to the debut of his daughter at the grand ballroom of a posh hotel in Mactan. Attire was all-black, according to the invitation, and the mayor had a part in the giving of the 18 treasures.

So the mayor bought a matching black long-sleeved shirt to his dark suit and proceeded to the venue of the debut. To his surprise, there was no party going on when he arrived so he called his secretary to verify with the office of the congressman. When she did, she was told that the party was canceled because the debutante has failed to arrive. And they did not inform Labella!

Unless he did not send the invitation and the supposed debut was a hoax, the party-list congressman should apologize to the mayor for standing him up. That is the only decent thing to do.

Speaking of apologies, we owe one to the mayor if we spoiled his mood during the Walk and Talk breakfast that he hosted yesterday. We had made it a point to never discuss governance with him during our gatherings to give him a breather from the burdens of the mayorship that he has to carry 24/7. Besides, it is pretentious of the unelected and unelectable like us to advise him on how to run the city.

But yesterday our otherwise lighthearted talk somehow drifted to traffic and garbage and that’s when the discussion became serious. The City should hire more traffic enforcers, train them properly before deployment, buy them uniforms to make them easily recognizable, we said. The choke points are very well known so it is obvious where to assign the most number of traffic men and for the longest period.

We were on a roll. “Our drivers are notoriously ill-disciplined, we need the traffic police and enforcers to crack the whip on them,” we urged. They are doing it in Talisay, one of us said. And also in Lapu-Lapu, another chimed in. Meanwhile, the mayor did not speak a word; he just listened.

The talk became more spirited when it came to garbage. I went through good-natured ribbing by the in-laws who are living in Lahug during our New Year’s Eve gathering, I told the mayor. No garbage truck had shown up for several days already and didn’t we just purchase new compactor trucks, they asked me.

I replied that garbage collection especially in the inner sections of the city is mostly done by the barangay. “That is why they get financial assistance from the City so they can buy garbage trucks and pay the wages of the collectors. Why don’t you ask your barangay captain what happened?” I knew that the advice was pointless because when it comes to delivery of basic public services, people always expect it of the mayor.

“That’s why I want the garbage bins to be installed all over the city so people can dump their garbage there without waiting for the garbage trucks to show up,” the mayor said, perhaps reading my thoughts. “I do not know why it’s taking too long to acquire it.” The mayor’s jaw hardened as he said this.

Garbage are being strewn on the streets, especially the inner ones, we reported to him. Oftentimes, it’s no longer a question of collection but of discipline. Maybe you should assign Raquel Arce and her men to scare people from dumping their waste onto the streets and other open spaces?

By then, we must have already said a lot while the mayor occasionally nodded or made a few comments. It was already 10:30 a.m. more than three hours since we started breakfast. Let’s go home, the mayor said, his face solemn.