BOPK retains majority in council despite split

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Thursday, August 21, 2014


REDRAWN party lines in the Cebu City Council may mean reopening the discussion on issues that were previously sidelined because one party had a clear majority.

These include the delayed Ciudad public-private venture in Barangay Apas and the handling of Province-owned lots occupied by informal settlers in Cebu City.

But the four councilors who bolted from the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) again clarified they are not joining Team Rama. BOPK still has eight members in the council while Team Rama has five; the four who left BOPK are non-aligned.

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“Am I still the majority floor leader?” asked Councilor Margarita “Margot” Osmeña.

New bloc

“Apparently I still am, but I don’t know about next week. But it’s not something I spend sleepless nights about. There is life after the session hall,” she added.

“Technically, BOPK is still the majority bloc,” said Councilor Gerardo Carillo, who formed the council’s independent bloc along with Councilors Roberto Cabarrubias, Richard “Richie” Osmeña and Noel Wenceslao.

Carillo said they decided to leave BOPK when they heard that its founder and former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña was “closing his doors” on them for supporting a resolution that could pave the way for selling lots in the South Road Properties (SRP) soon.

Osmeña released a statement following the loss of four councilors, who collectively ran a total of 13 terms under BOPK.

“Yes, it is true that there are four BOPK councilors that have left. I want to let you know that I knew that this would happen,” read the ex-mayor and ex-congressman’s statement posted on his Facebook account.

Calamity aid

“These councilors are upset that I didn’t try to stop Atty. Delute from filing his case against Mike Rama and members of the city council for fabricating themselves as calamity victims in order to justify taking P20,000 each from the city’s already bankrupt funds. The case included all councilors who approved the release, including those from BOPK.”

Tomas was referring to the administrative complaint lawyer Reymelio Delute filed against Mayor Michael Rama, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and 12 councilors before the Office of the President.

The respondents had approved the budget for calamity assistance for City Hall officials and employees following super typhoon Yolanda last November.

The four “independent” councilors and Team Rama Councilors Hanz Abella, James Cuenco, Mary Ann delos Santos and Dave Tumulak recently sponsored a resolution authorizing Rama to dispose of parts of the SRP, in a bid to pay off the foreign loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) for the development of the coastal project.

A similar ordinance was previously forwarded by Team Rama councilors for consideration in the council but they just couldn’t get the numbers until last Aug. 13, when the four BOPK councilors co-sponsored the resolution.

It is expected that other controversial issues will be tackled next such as the stalled Ciudad project in Barangay Apas and the Province-owned lots in Cebu City covered by Provincial Ordinance 93-1.

Collective

“The four of us decided that we will sit down together and discuss the issues as it comes along. We agreed to collectively vote,” said Carillo.

Wenceslao said there is a need to study the Ciudad project because it is an issue that is expected to benefit Barangay Apas residents and the local economy, but may have a negative impact on traffic in the Banilad-Talamban corridor.

Rama was very vocal about his stand to allow the Ciudad commercial development but was blocked by BOPK allies, who cited traffic and environmental issues.

But the issue started with the political rift between Tomas and then governor Gwendolyn Garcia (now congresswoman of the third district of Cebu Province), which also started with a disagreement on how to handle the 93-1 issue.

Independent

“We will tackle the issue as it comes. They said they will be independent and I would like to believe it. If I say I don't believe them, I’m calling them a liar and I don’t want that,” said Margot. She said she was not surprised by the turn of events but admitted she was “bothered.”

Tomas’s nephew, Richie, refused to issue a statement to reporters who tried to interview him yesterday. He and Wenceslao were seen in a meeting with executive officials in the Office of the Mayor.

Rama said he has not invited the four councilors to join Team Rama but that it would be a welcome development.

“Sus kanindot ra ana (That would be great). I will be happy (if they will join us) but what is incumbent now is just there are too many things to be done, projects to be finished,” said Rama.

Councilor Lea Japson said the political development is not a big deal.

During the regular council of the session yesterday, Margot and Carillo, who regularly sit beside each other, continued to be friendly and were seen laughing together.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 21, 2014.

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