FOR lack of a key, lawyer Winifredo Orcullo Jr., currently Cebu City’s market administrator, failed to assume as caretaker of Barangay Ermita yesterday morning. Orcullo, armed with a written authority from the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) and escorted by Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s favorite policeman, SPO1 Adonis Dumpit, arrived at the barangay hall only to find it padlocked.

Ermita Barangay Captain Felicisimo Rupinta and seven barangay councilors are serving the six months preventive suspension ordered by the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas in relation to the case filed against them by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) 7. They have filed a petition for review of the decision and sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) with the Court of Appeals.

The understanding is that Orcullo would only be a temporary caretaker because, according to Osmeña, he is still waiting for the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte on who among the three people he recommended would act as caretaker for the duration of the suspensions of Rupinta and the barangay councilors. The three are former city councilor Augustus Pe Jr., Tejero Barangay Captain Jessielou Cadungog and Dumpit.

Orcullo, Pe, Cadungog and Dumpit are all outsiders of Barangay Ermita, which means that Osmeña found it difficult to look for an Ermita resident loyal to him. They are also recommendees of Osmeña, head of the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK). All the suspended Ermita officials are aligned with the rival Team Rama. The padlocking of the barangay hall can, therefore, be considered both as politically motivated and a defiance by those who feel that Ermita is being invaded.

Osmeña may eventually get his way and have his designate finally run Barangay Ermita’s affairs, especially if Rupinta and company fail to get a TRO from the Courth of Appeals. But he and his caretaker will soon find out that it is difficult to run a barangay many of whose constituents don’t want to cooperate with them.

The situation would, therefore, be a challenge for the Ermita caretaker. He needs to show that, as an “invader,” his intention is only for the good of barangay residents and not of his patron.