I HAVE pointed this out a number of times before: Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is like rust that, to quote folk singer Neil Young, “never sleeps.” The recent dismissal by the Office of the Ombudsman of City Councilor James Anthony Cuenco could be another example of this. And like in previous instances, Barug Team Rama can be said to have been caught napping again.
Cuenco’s dismissal from public service stems from an act he was supposed to have committed a long time ago, in 2001 to be specific, when his father Antonio, who has retired from politics, was still a congressman. The younger Cuenco implemented a program conceived by his father that gave medical assistance to indigents at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center. Ironically, the program was named Tony N’ Tommy or TNT (Tony for Cuenco and Tommy for Osmeña, his ally then).
I won’t dwell much on the merits of the case—James said he would file a petition for review on certiorari with a prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and injunction with the Court of Appeals. What to me is interesting is the timing of the dismissal, which seems to give credence to allegations that Osmeña had a hand in its issuance.
There is currently in the Cebu City Council a battle for control after Nendell Hanz Abella resigned when he was appointed commissioner of the National Labor Relations Commission 7. The council now has 8 BOPK councilors and 8 Team Rama councilors with the presiding officer, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, a Team Rama stalwart. This even as Team Rama has nominated via the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Renato “Junjun” Osmeña Jr. as Abella’s replacement, strengthening Team Rama’s majority hold.
With Cuenco’s dismissal, the BOPK will get back the majority pending the approval by President Duterte of Junjun Osmeña’s appointment. And even if Junjun assumes his post, the hold by Team Rama of the majority would be fragile (back to 8-8, with Labella to break the tie). The consolation there is that Team Rama, again through UNA, gets to choose Cuenco’s replacement.
Early on, the BOPK reportedly maneuvered to have Rengelle Pelayo, an Osmeña ally and former head of the city’s Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Federation, as Abella’s replacement by having UNA nominate her with the help of Sen. Manny Pacquiao, a friend of UNA chief and former vice president Jejomar Binay. That failed, but it showed how determined Osmeña is in controlling the city council.
So did he have a hand in Cuenco’s dismissal. Osmeña already issued a denial, but I say it is possible. Doing so is not that complicated. He would just have to pressure or cajole the anti-graft office into resolving the pending case. And he has done it before in the pending case of a former councilor who shifted allegiance a couple of years or so ago from the BOPK to Team Rama. The former councilor claimed Osmeña followed up his pending case with the ombudsman—it’s just that instead of being found guilty, he was exonerated.
What I am saying is that even if Osmeña did push for the speedy resolution of Cuenco’s pending case, the mayor may not have a hand in the Ombudsman arriving at a dismissal decision.