Tuesday , April 24, 2018

Malilong: 8-9 and James Cuenco

THE score was 10-6 for Team Rama when the smoke cleared in the 2016 elections for councilor. But after three - Dave Tumulak, Hanz Abella and Jerry Guardo - bolted, Mike Rama’s team was left with only seven warriors, surrendering the majority to rival BOPK, 8-9, counting the vote of Philip Zafra, the ABC president and ex-officio member of the council.

When Abella was appointed to the National Labor Relations Commission, Team Rama, which has in the meantime changed its name to Barug, rejoiced because Abella’s replacement was, under the law, to come from its ranks, which meant that they could recapture the majority by the same one-vote margin.

Before the appointment of the replacement, Junjun Osmeña could be released, however, another unexpected twist of fate occurred that could possibly alter again the political dynamics in the council: the Ombudsman order dismissing James Cuenco from public service in connection with a 14-year-old case.

Cuenco was one of the city councilors whom Osmeña tried very hard to recruit to his side but tailed. Having displayed extraordinary loyalty to his party, James is held in high regard by his colleagues, which was why they rushed to his side as soon as the news of the Ombudsman order broke out. I doubt if they would even as much as mention to Cuenco their predicament if he cannot get a court order staying his dismissal. Some good values still inhabit politics such as not throwing under the bus a loyal colleague who is down,

But while that gesture would be admirable, it could also compromise Barug’s role as fiscalizers. A replacement can be appointed only if the vacancy is permanent and, aside from the court and the Ombudsman, only Cuenco has a say on that.

Happily for Barug, James recognizes the need and the urgency to address the party’s possible loss of ascendancy in the council. In an interview on Frankahay Ta yesterday, he said he is inclined to tell his colleagues not to worry about hurting his feelings and to look for a replacement.

He said he will continue to fight against his dismissal not because he wants to cling to public service but in order to vindicate his honor. He was surprised by his suspension in the administrative case because in the criminal investigation of the same complaint, he was declared to have not committed any falsification.

It is seldom that we find politicians who behave like James and if only for that, I am giving him the thumbs-up.

Speaking of which, I’d similarly congratulate President Duterte for vowing to thwart any attempt at suppression of the freedom of expression. Duterte was commenting on proposals to punish purveyors of fake news. That will not wash with him, the president said because it would transgress the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression.

So there you go, rabid defenders of the faith. Stop ranting when someone writes something about the president that you do not like. Don’t be more Duterteish than Duterte.