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Opinion

Adios, Mayor Edgar Labella  

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT - Atty. Ruphil Bañoc - The Freeman

“I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

The abovementioned quote was once again mentioned by the late mayor Edgardo Labella during our one-on-one interview in my Straight to the Point radio program aired over dyHP RMN Cebu. He thoroughly explained that he perfectly understood the role of media in society.

This interview happened two days before the 2019 election when I had the opportunity to interview separately the mayoralty candidates of Cebu City; former mayor Tomas Osmeña and the late mayor Edgar Labella. I gave them an equal opportunity on air.

When Labella became mayor, I remember that I invited him to be our speaker during the 56th anniversary of our station, dyHP RMN Cebu, in 2019. I also invited my good friend, the exorcist priest of Bohol, Fr. Darwin Gitgano. We had a fruitful discussion.

When Mayor Labella delivered his speech, he narrated why the media industry, particularly radio, is very close to him. He mentioned that his parents were radio talents, particularly his mother. In fact, he knew and called the names of almost everyone in our Drama Department.

Ate Priscilla Raganas, a well-known drama talent, confirmed that Mayor Labella was close to the drama talents. In fact, there were times in the past that after their stage dramas, Ate Priscilla slept in the house of Mayor Labella upon the invitation of the mayor’s mother, the late radio talent Esterlina Colina Labella.

So Labella’s family background explains his utmost understanding of the press. This is on top of his being a lawyer and a former Ombudsman director who knew exactly the law on press freedom. Hence, he was a friend of the press and mindful when his attention was called by the press.

I observe the clean record of Mayor Labella in public service, from being a director of the Ombudsman to becoming a mayor of Cebu City. He was not subjected to negative commentaries in his public service career until he became a mayor.

During his term as mayor, the city faced an unprecedented challenge because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet he tried his best to serve the people of Cebu. Despite his health problems, he made a lot of sacrifices to ensure that he was on top of the situation.

As everyone has shortcomings, Mayor Labella was not exempted. He was confronted with many challenges in managing the city. At the height of COVID-19, the national government sent DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu and General Mel Feliciano to help in manning the problem.

With those incidents it was inevitable for some members of the press to call his attention. Mayor Labella maintained his composure and answered the press squarely.

Leaders leave legacies, their own marks in the vast and challenging field of leadership. Mayor Labella will be remembered for this being lantip (brilliant) ug ligdong (upright). He has enriched public service with his insights as legislator and mayor.

He was not directly involved in corruption scandals. There were times that those who surrounded him must have abused his kindness, which somehow dragged his name down.

True, no politician is immaculate but there are those who are able to uphold the core of their integrity, and that’s what Mayor Labella did.

He was a public servant worthy of emulation.

EDGARDO LABELLA

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