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EDITORIAL - Telling blow

With elections just down the corner, there is no stopping political skirmishes from erupting. The latest flareup was in Mandaue City when Mayor Jonas Cortes got reprimanded by the Office of the President on account of a complaint filed by the opposition-dominated council.

If it is any consolation to Mandauehanons, at least the conflict between their leaders has not descended into something ridiculous like chasing cadavers or tearing down basketball backboards as what has happened in Cebu City, starring Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

At least in Mandaue, the latest conflict arose from something important and vital to governance — the enactment of the annual budget, and the refusal of the mayor to abide by its provisions, hence his having been found guilty of dereliction of duty by Malacañang.

By law, the power over the purse rests with the legislative. When the council put in safeguards to govern how the Mandaue City budget is to be spent, it was perfectly within its authority to do so, even if Cortes felt the council intended them to clip his wings.

Cortes cried obstructionism. But that is a matter for the Mandauehanons to decide. For at the end of the day, many will agree that, obstructionism or not, safeguards against spending are still prudent and in the public interest. And the council can claim credit for them.

Tragically, Cortes failed to see it that way. He only saw half of the big picture and took it as an affront to his authority. Having misjudged the situation, he miscalculated his response and chose to fight the council over a matter that he was never in a position to fight.

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By ordering department heads to ignore the guidelines the council built into the budget to govern expenses, Cortes interfered in its functions. Maybe he was just piqued. But then, it opened up the opportunity for the council to convincingly accuse Cortes of ignorance.

The reprimand from the Office of the President could not have come at a worse time for Cortes as his competence can now be made an issue by the opposition. Yet, instead of damage control, the mayor stonewalls, even insisting on his readiness to go to jail for his actions.

It is one thing to go down fighting for a cause one thinks is right. It is another to own a mistake when it becomes apparent and move on in the right direction. Cortes has not given any indication of doing the latter. And that could prove very telling on him as a leader.

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