Tuesday , May 22, 2018

Malilong: The unsinkable Michael Rama

FIRST, he lost his bid for reelection as Cebu City mayor in May last year. Then, a few months later, he was accused by no less than the president of the Republic of being a drug protector. Not once but at least twice and on national television yet.

Others would have quickly cringed and fallen off like shrinking violets. But not Michael Rama. The fellow is unsinkable. Or maybe the description should be unshakable, like a barnacle or a monument, depending on where you’re coming from.

It’s a tribute to Rama’s resilience that he has managed to stay or, at the very least appear, politically relevant, sometimes in ways that are unconventional (actually an understatement) such as when he showed up the site of a proposed underpass dressed in a white jacket in the midst of a hot day.

It was nothing new, of course. During his first suspension as mayor, he was photographed riding in a passenger jeepney clutching a branded bag and, on a separate occasion, lying on a bench at the Freedom Park. And didn’t he appear at a socio-religious function wearing the garb of a king?

Many people hate Rama’s guts but they are what make him. He can make the most egregious mistake and not show any hint of embarrassment at least not publicly. He will make his people roll on their bellies during meetings to test their loyalty. Then, he will sing to them to put them at ease. He probably did not succeed everytime in that regard but, what the heck, he has legions of fans who swear by his name.

These are the same people who are heard egging him to run for mayor again in 2019. That’s two years away yet but Rama has been visiting them every day almost without fail to feel their pulse and listen to their voices. All the time, their chorus has been “Rama 2019.” I told you, they’re his people and they adore him.

During one of those visits, a common friend told me, he called his former, and the incumbent, vice mayor, Edgardo Labella. Listen to this, he told Labella and proceeded to ask his audience: who do you want to be your congressman in the north district? And they chorused, Labella!

Rama had already “anointed” Labella as his successor but apparently that assurance was premised on his winning a third term. Tomas Osmeña, however, spoiled Rama’s plans by scoring a comfortable, albeit a disputed, win.

It’s not a problem to Labella, he told us himself during an interview. He is qualified for one more term as vice mayor when the current one ends and he’d prefer that Rama squared off with Osmena for the third time, he said.

So there, Rama doesn’t have to convince Labella to run for another office to keep him out of the way of Rama’s bid to capture City Hall again. There is no such thing as feeling guilty for a broken promise in politics and so Rama doesn’t have to ask Labella again to take the phone and listen to Rama’s orchestra beseeching the ex-anointed to run away, please go.

But can he win? Michael Rama is unsinkable but can he swim all the way to City Hall?