CEBU City Mayor Edgardo Labella has been criticized for allegedly “mishandling” the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. His critics described him as a “weak leader.” Because of his “weak leadership,” the number of positive cases in the city is increasing every day. Cebu City has the highest number of positive cases in all local government units (LGUs) throughout the country, prompting the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to revert the city’s quarantine status to enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) from general community quarantine (GCQ) status since June 16 up to 30.
Some crazy political observers cannot help but compare Labella’s kind of governance to his predecessor, that of “has-been” mayor Tomas Osmeña. Some quarters said had Osmeña been the mayor, this would not have been the status of the city being the highest pointer in Covid cases.
These comments on social media prompted Osmeña to break his silence and come out in the open. He said he was confronted with questions through text messages from friends and supporters. He was asked “What would he do to reduce Covid cases in the barangay?” In his letter to the editor in a local daily, Osmeña laid down his plans to reduce Covid cases.
He said: “Since there is no known cure for Covid, I can only present detailed strategy. During my term, I had implemented a ‘Long Life’ program. You may or may not see the relevance of this program to the pandemic at the barangay.” He explained that, “If I were the mayor when the pandemic hit our barangays, I will supply daily, using the 800 volunteers, multi-vitamins for all senior citizens. All residents in lockdown areas and even frontliners and city jail inmates. Multi-vitamins costs P6 each. Since the human infrastructure is in place, I could accomplish this in 72 hours. I will use the network in 80 barangays to serve as a daily contact to each resident and report anyone who doesn’t feel well. It will be a rapid reporting system instead of a P240-million command center. Finally, it will monitor fair and proper food distribution.” (Note: Labella fired all the 800 volunteers and scrapped the proposed Covid Command Center).
“On a sad note, our ‘Long Life Program’ was the only system of daily house-to-house distribution of medication in all 7,000 islands and in all of Asia. Ask your friends in Japan and Korea if they do this. They don’t even do this in the US and Europe.”
Osmeña’s plan was only a component of the entire approach to combat the pandemic and we welcome it. But if you remember the house-to-house distribution of medicines to senior citizens Osmeña mentioned encountered some irregularities. Some volunteers were not diligent in delivering those maintenance and vitamins to beneficiaries, especially in the mountain barangays. Some medicines were found dumped in secluded areas. There were allegations also of overpricing in the purchase of those medicines.
But I think Labella adopted that approach. City Hall provided medicines to those found positive who are temporarily housed in various Barangay Isolation Centers (BIC). On the fair distribution of food and other aids to the barangays, is Osmeña sure that his barangay ward leaders won’t play politics like what is happening with Labella’s administration? Osmeña’s Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) allied barangay captains played politics during the distribution of the “ayuda” (aid) even if these assistance came from City Hall. They allegedly prioritized their allies and relatives.
If Osmeña were mayor today, could he control those hard-headed people in the lockdown areas like in Mambaling to go out of their way to look for food and continue to do their livelihood? Could he control mass gathering in violation of social distancing, like those who go to Carbon market to buy food? Even if Tomas is an arrogant person and has dictatorial tendency, he still is a human being like Labella who has a soft part in his heart. I even doubt if he will be in the frontline, like what Labella is doing because he is sickly and vulnerable to infection. Basin mitago na siya karon.
If you are a leader, you should do a balancing act between protecting public health and economic survival. The government doesn’t have enough resources to support the needs of its people. As the saying goes: “It is easier said than done.” Other leaders in leading and powerful countries like the US and Europe with all their huge resources have encountered difficulties handling this “first ever health crisis.” How much more our leaders here?