Monday July 23, 2018

Malilong: Yes, he did

LAST Tuesday, I asked in this space if Mayor Tomas Osmeña got his wish in the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections in the city. When I wrote that piece, voters were still trooping to the polling places to chose their barangay officials and, in a way, define the directions that the city will be taking, at least in the next twelve months.

The answer turned out to be a resounding yes as BOPK candidates clobbered their Barug-Team Rama-PDP Laban counterparts in all but a few fronts in what should be the most interesting and hotly-contested barangay elections in the history of Cebu. When the smoke of battle cleared, Osmeña had 49 barangays in his pocket, more than thrice the 15 that he had during his first two years of this term.

In a couple of months at the latest, the barangay captains will gather to elect their officers with no less than an ex-officio seat in the city council at stake for the president. On or about the same time, a similar election will be held in the SK Federation, whose chairman, will also sit in the city council as ex-officio member.

There is no doubt that the BOPK will field their own candidates in both leagues. There is no doubt either that they will win. That means two more BOPK councilors and one less from Barug (Philip Zafra, the incumbent ABC president), giving Osmeña’s camp a 10-7 majority in the council or 10-8 if James Cuenco is reinstated or is replaced.

I am not sure if the new political configuration in the council will make possible a mid-term reorganization (I heard that a two-thirds vote is required under their rules). What is certain is that Osmeña can now have his way with the city’s legislature.

One of those that will be greatly benefited by the council’s having a new majority would be the proposed P18 billion development project of the old Kawit island. Months after the Gokongwei group submitted it to the mayor’s office, the proposal has not moved even a notch higher because the city council has refused to authorize Osmeña to sign the joint venture agreement. Obtaining that authority should now be a breeze.

Osmeña can now also be assured of a more sympathetic ear from the council regarding his efforts to recover the SRP lots that the Rama administration sold to SM and Ayala. One of the legal questions raised about the cancellation was whether the mayor could do it on his own or if he needed council authorization. That question has now become academic as he could easily get the authority anytime.

As for Barug, it should be back to the drawing board for them. Strategizing should begin with the acknowledgment that they have been outfought and outsmarted by Osmeña. They should also already decide who their standard bearer will be in 2019. Is it Rama or Vice Mayor Edgar Labella? Any doubt that Osmeña will clobber them in a three-cornered fight should be gone by now. Why, they would even have a very hard beating him one-on-one.

The people have spoken. Their leader is Osmeña. At least as of now.