SOME quarters say that with the designation of Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Roy Cimatu as overseer to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) here, Cebu City Mayor Edgardo lost his authority, had become powerless, was rendered inutile or had to take the back seat in the fight against the pandemic. They claimed it’s a big slap in the face of the mayor.
By the way, how do we officially address or call Cimatu? Did I use the right term “overseer?” Or is he IATF Visayas implementer, Covid response chief or Covid czar? President Rodrigo Duterte, in his verbal order, said Cimatu is an “adjunct” to the IATF. Adjunct means a thing added to something as a supplementary rather than an essential part, or a person who is another’s assistant or subordinate. So this means that Cimatu is the IATF’s alter ego here.
I think Labella has not lost his authority on the situation or has become a second-class citizen. He is the mayor and still on top of the situation. Maybe it will be a “collaborative” move between him and Cimatu and other heads of the various national agencies, composed of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. When we talk of collaboration, it is the process of two or more people or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal.
While Cimatu was given the “full authority” by the President to discharge his duties, there are matters beyond his control. He has to coordinate with Labella as the latter is a duly elected authority to run the affairs of the city. Likewise, Labella has to coordinate with heads of national agencies because there are also matters beyond his authority as his power is only within the territorial jurisdiction of the city.
I believe Cimatu cannot just issue orders on his own without coordinating with Labella. He cannot issue executive orders or implement administrative policies without the concurrence of the mayor. On the other hand, Labella’s power is also limited. He cannot just order any government agency for that matter to do this and that.
For example, in the police matter, Labella’s authority is only up to the city director who is directly under his operational supervision and control. Above that, in the regional level, he has to make a request to the Police Regional Office 7 chief. Like now, there are augmentation forces from other regions to be deployed here to strictly enforce health protocols, especially in lockdown areas. Labella failed to do that before, but Cimatu quickly did it. The same thing with the military. He cannot just order the Central Command (Centcom) chief to deploy forces and likewise to other government agencies like the Department of Health (DOH). But Cimatu can easily do that in coordination with secretaries of these departments in the national level as he has the mandate from the President.
An example of collaboration was the suspension and cancellation last Tuesday night of the quarantine passes issued by City Hall when the city was first placed on enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) last March was a collaborative decision. The “granular lockdown” was not only a decision of Cimatu, but a collective decision.
Although the order came from Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año and directed to the police, the decision was a collective one. However, Labella’s critics were quick to conclude that hizonner was not aware of the issue as it was purely upon Cimatu’s order. No, it was a collective decision. Labella was properly informed about the decision during a meeting, although, Año’s directive to the police came earlier before Labella announced it on his Facebook account.
The executive authority within the City Government is vested in the local chief executive. The mayors are duly elected by the people and they should be accountable to the people. Labella being a lawyer knows the parameters of his powers, when to insist and when not to. Politics is one of the reasons cited by Cimatu why we failed in our Covid response effort. Politics in the barangay level is very prevalent, like in the distribution of “ayuda” (relief goods).
I hope this time, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (Opav) Secretary Michael Dino will not poke his fingers at or insist on his whims and caprices, influencing local chief executives. He should stay in the sidelines, especially since he is facing controversy over his “bogo” comments. A petition addressed to the President is circulating on social media. He should also expand his concern on other regions in the Visayas, his area of responsibility, and should not only focus on Cebu City. This is also to eliminate public suspicion that he has personal and hidden agenda in his moves. Unsaon nga daghan man gustong mag-mayor dinhi sa Cebu City.