Nalzaro: Requiescat in pace, Mayor EdLab

·4 min read

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” -Rabindranath Tagore, Indian poet, writer and philosopher (1861-1941)

The late Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella was one of my few friends when I set foot here in Cebu City from Zamboanga City more than three decades ago. He was then a Director for the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas. I was with dyMF Bombo Radyo Cebu when I met and knew him. I used to interview him on my radio program. He was one of Cebu media’s favorite news sources. He was very accommodating. We were “kumpares” as we acted as sponsors (godparents) in several wedding ceremonies of some of our common friends.

When he ventured into politics in the 90’s, I was one of those he consulted. I gave him a piece of advice. With his legal background, he stood out in the City Council. He sponsored several ordinances and resolutions that benefited the Cebuanos. He served the Cebuanos with utmost sincerity and integrity—from being a councilor, vice mayor and until he became a mayor. Maybe influenced by his stint at the Ombudsman, which is the watchdog of all government officials and employees, Mayor Labella served as a role model for public officials.

He used to say these words in public discussions: “Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice and lead modest lives.” He did not show arrogance and abusive conduct when he was in power. He was never involved in graft and corruption. He was a humble and down-to-earth public servant, a trait which should be emulated by other government officials.

He volunteered to act as one of my legal counsels (pro-bono) together with topnotch lawyer Gloria Lastimosa when I was cited for contempt of court by dismissed Barili Regional Trial Court Judge Ildefonso Suerte after I lambasted the latter on my radio program for committing a shenanigan. Suerte did not impose any sanction or penalty against me until he was ordered dismissed by the Supreme Court following an investigation. When Labella heard me over my radio program that I was invited to be the graduation speaker of my high school alma matter in my hometown, Dipolog City, he volunteered to write my speech, which centered on the importance of education. It was a long speech.

When he and his wife, Ma’am Joy, were rescued in the high seas of Cavite during the sinking of the M/V Princess of the Orient in 1998, I was the first one to locate them through telephone contact. Ma’am Joy was the first to be rescued and three days later, Ed was also rescued after floating and struggling for his life in the high seas of Cavite eating everything that could be touched.

That crosslined telephone conversation with Ed, Ma’am Joy and their son, Jaypee, who was here in Cebu waiting for developments, was very touching and emotional. With the couple’s conversation, the family and their friends were assured that everything was okay and that they survived the tragedy.

During that dialogue on the air, I was not able to hold my emotions and tears flowed. The last time we talked, Mayor Ed told me that he preserved the tape of that conversation and played it during the anniversary of the tragedy.

During the 2019 election campaign, I was one of those he consulted if he would debate with then Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña. I told him boldly and frankly that he should not refuse because he is a lawyer and it would be very insulting on his part if he would decline.

When he won as mayor, he invited

me to visit his office but I politely declined. We saw each other only during special occasions for their Walk and Talk Friendship Club of which I am an honorary member. The last time I saw him was October of last year. He was still in good shape.

One good attitude of Mayor EdLab was he listened to suggestions and criticisms. He had no dictatorial tendencies. He was an avid listener of my radio program. He used to text me and give inputs of the topics I would discuss, especially on legal matters. He supplied me with some facts, laws and even Supreme Court jurisprudence. He gave me advance information about his plans for his administration. If I discussed something negative, especially the questionable conduct of some City Hall officials, he would text me: “Super Bob, I will look into that.” He was very responsive and not an onion-skinned public official.

It is just very unfortunate that he was not able to finish his term. He could have sought re-election so he could fully implement his programs and projects, his vision and mission for Cebu and the Cebuanos. But that is life, we never know our fate here. Everything in this world is temporary. Mahatma Gandhi, India’s anti-colonial nationalist (1869-1948), once said, “There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.”

Requiescat in pace (Rest in peace), my dear friend, Mayor EdLab. Adios.

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