One step backward for Osmeña?

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

IS THE recent takeover by Team Rama barangay captains of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) in Cebu City a sign that Tomas Osmeña’s political hold on the city is loosening?

That’s the logical next question following the landslide win by Tisa Barangay Captain Philip Zafra of Team Rama over Capitol Site Barangay Captain Manuel Guanzon of the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) for the ABC presidency last week. Barangay officials function as leaders in the grassroots of candidates in an electoral exercise.

I think it can be a sign but nothing is conclusive as yet.

Before the ABC elections, the count was Team Rama leading by one or two barangay captains among the 80 villages in the city over the BOPK. But the result became a lopsided win for Zafra for the ABC presidency, 53 to 22. Almost the same margin for Team Rama was observed in the balloting for the other ABC positions.

Meaning that barangay chiefs earlier identified as BOPK allies didn’t follow the party instruction. Or they just didn’t like the slate put up by BOPK, although they still consider themselves as party allies. Still, going against the dictates of BOPK chief Osmeña is already a big thing considering his temperament.

But until we see a formal exodus of BOPK-allied barangay captains to the Team Rama camp, we cannot be definite about how loose is the loosening of Osmeña’s grip on the barangay captains.

Which makes the coming election of officials of the Cebu City chapter of the Barangay Councilors League of the Philippines crucial. The elections have been set for Jan. 11. Heading Team Rama’s slate is lawyer Raymond Alvin Garcia, son of former mayor Alvin Garcia. He will be challenging incumbent Franklin Ong, a BOPK ally.

If Garcia and his slate win, then that would mean that there is a gradual crumbling of the BOPK political machinery that once allowed Osmeña to thoroughly dominate the city’s politics for several terms before Rama took over the post of mayor.

The problem for Osmeña now is that all of these are unfurling while he is merely an ordinary citizen after he lost to Rama in the May elections. His aura of invincibility was torn asunder by that defeat. And without a position in government, he could not flaunt the political power that he used to cow both his allies and his political rivals.

More than that, he can no longer get as much financial support as he was getting from his financiers when he was still in power. And I don’t think he would use his personal resources to fund efforts to hold on to his crumbling political machinery.

This may be the reason he is using his hold on the City Council to ensure that the Rama administration will end up being cash-strapped. He wants to deny Rama the use of his being an incumbent to strengthen his own political machinery. Still, Rama seems undeterred.

Consider this: It is not just mere coincidence that City Hall distributed the financial assistance for barangay officials for the months of October to November only a few days ago. Barangay chiefs received P9,000 each, while barangay councilors got P5,400 each. Would the distribution have an effect on the coming BCLP polls?

Osmeña and the BOPK, though, can still bounce back next year when the ban on appointments to government posts of those who lost in the May elections will no longer be in effect. I am sure President Noynoy Aquino will appoint Osmeña to a government position strategic enough for him to be able to muddle Cebu City affairs. Osmeña can use that position to do what he does best: to solidify his long-term political plans for 2016.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 23, 2013.


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