Editorial: Rightsizing Cebu City Hall

Something is not right with a local government unit (LGU) when non-regular employees outnumber the regular employees, or individuals who have civil service eligibility and security of tenure.

One such LGU is the Cebu City Government, which had 3,433 casual employees, 200 coterminous employees, 45 contractual workers and 2,263 job order employees as of Sept. 30, 2022. The total number of non-regular City Hall workers (5,941) compared to that of permanent employees (1,367) is mind-boggling—the non-regular employees outnumber the regular ones by 4,574.

How many of these non-regular employees are performing well in their duties? Is public service at the top of their minds and hearts? Or do they think only of the salary they will receive?

Does the City Government under Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama really evaluate the non-regular employees’ performance with all sincerity? Or does the evaluation involve political color?

To be fair, the Cebu City LGU is not the only LGU in Cebu Province or in any other part of the Philippines that hires non-regular employees. This has been the practice by victors during elections. Elected public officials are politicians who have to make compromises with their patrons and allies. They also have to make sure that their survival in the next election cycle is near 100 percent, so they have to make moves that could appease their constituents, one of which is the employment of jobless residents.

Knowing the Filipino trait of paying back the person to whom they owe a debt of gratitude or “utang kabubut-on” in Cebuano, the non-regular employees would campaign for the politicians that hired them come election time even if they are not told to do so. This is an old argument, but it still holds true till this day.

Political survival could be the reason why Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama decided to rehire more than 400 casual and job order employees whose employment contracts ended last September.

Rama did not explicitly state the reason why he opted to give these individuals another chance to work at the City Hall. He just said that he “exercised his mayor’s prerogative” in rehiring the job order and casual employees, adding that they will be evaluated on a regular basis.

The mayor’s executive secretary, lawyer Collin Rosell, said Rama wants to rightsize the number of City Hall employees so the LGU can spare funds for its programs and projects.

Rightsizing means to reduce the workforce to optimal size that increases resources to reduce costs and remain competitive. However, Rosell failed to give a concrete picture of what is a rightsized City Hall because he did not give the definite number of employees that should be working for the LGU.

The Rama administration and its allied councilors must set a cap on the number of non-regular employees in both executive and legislative departments. How can they spare funds if they do not put a cap on hiring non-regular employees?

All elected politicians, not just Rama, must be reminded that they are not corporate bosses. They must remember that the “public office is a public trust,” not a manpower agency.