AND then there are three?

A few months after the elections, two city councilors, who won under Team Rama, declared that they were turning independent. He was tired of partisan politics, Dave told me at his office, just a few hours before he announced that he was swearing off party affiliations. I was not able to talk to Abella but the explanation that he gave to the press had the same tone.

Dave Tumulak and Nendell Hanz Abella have, however, been more BOPK than independent since then. Not only had they accepted appointments by Mayor Tommy Osmeña as his deputy mayors, they have consistently sided with him in all instances where voting was called in the council to determine its collective sense on a particular issue.

Such was the case last Tuesday when the council debated Raymund Garcia’s motion “to denounce in strongest terms” the mayor’s behavior towards Banco de Oro. The council killed the measure with the help of Tumulak and Abella.

Will more hands be available for Tommy the next time he faces off with the opposition-dominated council? Could James Cuenco, who voted for Garcia’s proposal, have performed his last act as a Team Rama stalwart? Could anything be inferred from Philip Zafra’s abstention?

James’s case is clearer. His father, former Cebu City south district Rep. Tony Cuenco is now friends with Tommy. He told me so during an interview on Frankahay Ta yesterday morning. He and Tommy, who had a bitter falling out many years ago, have decided to let bygones be bygones.

Tony admitted that he and his son belong to opposing political camps is “awkward” but said he will leave it to the latter to chart his political future.

But the publicly-taken stance may not necessarily be the real one. A source once told me that James, who is close to Margot and Tommy, wanted to seek re-election under the BOPK last year but Tony put his foot down, at one point even threatening to run for councilor with Team Rama if his son persisted.

As for Zafra, the rumor is that he was disheartened after Rama allegedly announced in a recent gathering of barangay captains that his former executive assistant will be replaced by Ramil Ayuman of Apas as Association of Barangay Councils president in the city. Team Rama itself should not be surprised that the mayor is courting their councilors. They did exactly the same thing when Mike was mayor and managed to win over then BOPK councilors Noel Wenceslao, Ritchie Osmeña and Gerry Carillo to their side.

Notwithstanding the defections, Rama was still not able to gain control of the council as the rest of Osmena-affiliated councilors held fast. Whether Osmena will succeed this time where Rama had failed will depend on the courter’s persuasion and the courted’s vulnerability.