SINCE Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña won the 2016 elections -- after a six-year power drought when Michael Rama ruled the city for two terms -- his mission obviously has been to raze to the ground Mike’s political infrastructure.
It started as early as the “transition rule” of his wife Councilor Margot as acting mayor after Mike’s second suspension order in the closing months of his term. Then carried over and pursued more vigorously when Mayor Tomas assumed office last June 30, 2016.
Pulling out vehicles, stripping off allowances of barangay tanods and other workers, firing casuals: the list of BOPK rival Barug Team Rama is long.
The goal has been to destroy Barug by stripping it of influence and patronage. Stop or slow down flow of City Hall aid to Barug-ruled barangays or give it through BOPK leaders, not the barangay chief.
How to do that? Tomas created his own pocket of power in the barangay by setting up his own mayors office, which screens or releases City Hall aid, such as delivering maintenance meds to selected persons every day (!).
But is the mayor’s office called Barangay Mayor’s Office (BMO) legitimate?
Does not exist
“It does not exist,” according to Rene Burdeos, regional director of Department of Interior & Local Government (DILG), in an opinion of Oct. 26, 2016.
What legally exists is the Barangay Disaster Control Center. BDCC. Which was renamed BMO and gave him the unit to operate in the barangay and controls flow of aid and influence from City Hall.
BDCC is legal but as BMO--when it operates even without a calamity and competes with or usurps functions of the regular barangay--its act becomes unauthorized and unlawful.
BDCC provides the cover, which is removed whenever it performs functions allocated by law to the regular barangay unit. Two incidents involving BMOs that solicited funds for the 2018 Sinulog from the business sector validated the suspicion or belief of those who question their operation.
The giveaway is that BDCC aka BMO is limited in functions and authority. It is confined to calamity in the barangay.
■ It can only disseminate information, give assistance and services, coordinate with other government agencies, supervise and coordinate activities, “all pertaining to and in times of calamity.”
■ Its functions shall not be “in conflict with functions, responsibilities and duties of the barangay.
It can (1) operate only during a calamity and (2) it must not usurp the regular barangay units functions. As DILG’s Burdeos put it, the BDCC/BMO “shall not be involved or perceived to be involved on matters of pure barangay concerns.”
In sum, BDCC cannot do things other than disaster work, not even when it calls itself BMO.
Not sitting down
There it is. Tomas, going around or undercutting the barangay captain who’s not supporting him in the elections, created the BDCC/BMO. And has used it to manage the flow of City Hall aid, not to the chief who’s Barug member but to the BDCC/BMO persons who’re BOPK.
Neat. Testament to Tomas’s “political genius.” Except that Barug councilors are not taking it, ah, sitting down. They, notably Councilors Raymond Garcia and Joel Garganera, are calling BBCC/BMO for what it is: a device to sap the strength of the barangay unit of government for political or personal interest.
Burdeous already said DILG is not the forum. The office of the president or the court has to resolve the issue by complaint and litigation.
That requires evidence, not just deduction or suspicion. Barug has to prove that Tomas’s BMO has gone beyond BDCCs assigned work.
For now, Tomas is socking it to them and Ramanians still have to strike back.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on February 13, 2018.
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