Today we digress from the routine of life and the routine content of this column to consider what is about to unfold a few hours from now. For Cebu City, either a new mayor in Edgardo Labella or, what many dread, the continuation of Tomas Osmeña at the helm of a city that badly needs visionary leadership.
Meanwhile in the province, there is no doubt we will certainly have a female governor whether we like it or not. And for me there is no one better to finally move the province forward once again than the governor whom I served as consultant for museum affairs from 2007 until the inept Benigno Aquino III, his minion, Mar Roxas, and their ilk in Cebu, conspired to suspend her in 2012. I am referring to no other than Gwendolyn F. Garcia.
While I cannot persuade any of you dear readers to vote for my preferred candidates, let me explain why Cebu needs them.
Edgardo Labella, Mike Rama and their team of councilors carry the baton for President Rodrigo Duterte in the city. Labella represents fresh leadership with integrity, not one marked by divisiveness and sheer arrogance. Besides, President Duterte has made it crystal clear: a vote for Labella will mean a Light Rail Transit for Cebu—something we really badly need if we are to be an investment haven in the years to come. This is just an inkling of the good things coming should Labella and his partymates win and what will not happen should they lose.
Meanwhile, for the province, I choose Gwendolyn F. Garcia, her running mate Daphne Salimbangon and all their party-mates in the One Cebu Party. Garcia, the come-backing governor whose case that her enemies bandy about was finally decided resoundingly in her favor by the Court of Appeals just the other day, is the best person to end the state of stagnation and inactivity that has marked the province of Cebu vis-a-vis the rest of the country and the nation at large.
There is a term for what has happened in the last six years that Gwen has been absent from the provincial seat: the doldrums. It is as if Cebu was akin to a ship that had suddenly entered dead wind, adrift without any direction, losing her status as the most prominent province in the country. A lazy and laggard leadership had taken over, ending with a monstrous building project that at best encapsulates literally in cement concrete terms how aimlessly the province had drifted.
Those who of us who have had the privilege of working with Gwen, seeing her up close and personal—like my friend and village neighbor, the SunStar columnist Publio Briones—understand perfectly the kind of people who fear her the most: the lazy, the unproductive and the compliance-only government employees. Should she and her partymates get the vote a few hours from now, then there is no doubt that the times of lackluster government service will have come to end.
Hers is a passionate form of leadership, devoted to the work at hand yet armed with a vision for how Cebu Province should be. During those times when another dear friend, Ruel Rigor, and I carried out her heritage programs, we would often bump into her in one town or another, attending to all kinds of meetings or inaugurating one government project after another. In a single week, she could be out in the towns, meeting mayors and barangay officials three or four times in a day, often going home late at night or staying overnight in one town to proceed to another the following day.
Other governors, I am pretty sure, would just simply call this or that mayor to the Capitol. But not Gwen. Even as she was vilified for buying a legally-titled property in Naga with some fishponds in it, she continued with her brand of service unfazed. By the way, as Crisologo Saavedra has said it so clearly, I have often wondered why she was singled out by the Ombusdman in the Balili land purchase when the complaint Saavedra filed included all the members of the Provincial Board. After all, it was the PB that attested to the legal status of the property and—this is very important—authorized her to sign the purchase agreement. She would not have signed without the PB authorization. Don’t you smell something fishy in this whole controversy?
(Today, the Balili property is valued at P6,000 per square meter, a far cry from the 400 pesos she insisted should be the price when the PB recommended a higher one. Cebu is in fact richer for the purchase and no matter how she has been put down, it is clear that she had the future of Cebu in mind. Even the Court of Appeals has, of late, agreed.)
And so dear readers, history is being made today. Be mindful of how you want Cebu City and Cebu Province to be charted: to drift aimlessly again or be anchored firmly with passionate leadership and a vision for the future. Do not waste your vote by creating illogical and unworkable tandems as has been shown these past two elections in the city: a mayor from one party, a vice-mayor from the opposing one and a host of councilors with no clear majority. Ditto for the province: a united front comprising the governor and vice-governor from the same party, together with a majority from their own party can only mean better times for all of us.
The choice, as the cliché goes, is yours. Go out and vote conscientiously.
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