THEY were the staunchest of allies. I believe they still are. But will Mayor Michael Rama campaign as hard for Vice President Jejomar Binay in 2016 as the latter did for him in 2013?

“The Ramas are not known to renege on their word,” the mayor told me when we discussed the subject of his political alliance with the embattled Binay last month.

“We don’t abandon a friend who has done nothing against us.”

There was an edge to his voice when he said that. Obviously, he has not forgotten what happened to him in the months leading to the last local elections. He was a loyal card-bearing Liberal Party (LP) member, he complained, when word leaked that the LP was torn between him and his rival, former mayor Tomas Osmeña.

That loyalty apparently did not impress then LP president Mar Roxas, who ditched him in favor of Osmeña. Rama was told about the party’s decision through a late night call from Roxas. “I will never forget this,” he reportedly told Roxas angrily.

The animosity between the two was palpable when they met during the blessing of lawyer Gus Go’s modern hospital (UCMed) on May 1. When he saw that Roxas was headed towards his direction, the mayor turned his back, facing the Interior Secretary only when the latter was too close for him to ignore. Both men were obviously not pleased about bumping into each other; there were no pleasantries, just a perfunctory nod from each man before they turned their attention elsewhere.

Back to Binay, understandably, it was to him that the suddenly orphaned Rama turned for help after the LP dismissal. Binay embraced him as a father would although there was nothing paternal about his motives. He had been thoroughly drubbed by Roxas in Cebu in the 2010 vice presidential elections and regarded Rama as a prized find through whom he could punch his ticket to the future, at least in Cebu.

Fast forward to 2015, after leading all the surveys on presidential preference, Binay s engine sputtered as allegations of corruption came one after the other.

He did not help his case by evading the issues: he refused to attend the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, backed out from a challenge to debate with Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and hired spokespeople whose aggressiveness turned off a lot of people.

Although Binay’s numbers had declined steadily as tales of fat bank accounts began to mount, few anticipated that he would eventually tumble out of the lead among probable presidential contenders.

Then the bullying from his camp went on high gear. It was started by Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco by way of a claim that Sen. Grace Poe, who has not even yet declared, unlike Binay, that she was gunning for higher officer, was not eligible to run for president or vice president because she lacked the 10-year residence requirement.

As if on cue, another Binay spokesman, JV Bautista belittled Poe for being a foundling.

An enraged public lost no time in making known their anger over the allegations against Poe. Tiangco backtracked while Bautista was not heard from again. But it was clear that the ploy had backfired and that even Binay’s pathetic claim that he too has been adopted was not enough to blunt the people’s displeasure.

The latest surveys validated this. Poe has overtaken him as the preferred successor to Aquino. Rama’s friend and ally is no longer invincible. Poe could beat him if the election were held today. The surveys say that.

Rama himself faces a stiff challenge from Osmeña. He knows that one slight misstep is all it would take for him to lose the advantage enjoyed by the incumbent. Will Rama campaign hard for an unpopular Binay if it would imperil his own reelection?

Loyal friend or pragmatic politician?