AMERICAN politician William Clay said politics is “quite a game.”
“There are no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests,” he said.
In the game that is the Cebu City politics, two estranged friends—former mayor Michael Rama and City Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos—will duke it out for the vice mayoral post in the midterm elections on Monday, May 13.
Rama was elected mayor for two terms (2010-2013; 2013-2016). He was gunning for his third and last term in the 2016 elections when his erstwhile ally, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, defeated him.
Osmeña is seeking a second term against his former Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) ally, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella.
De los Santos served Barangay Lahug for 24 years, first as a barangay councilor before being elected village chief for two terms.
She was an ally of Rama when she was first elected as city councilor in 2013. She was the only Team Rama candidate for north district councilor who won.
In 2015, Rama tasked her to monitor the construction of the new Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC), which suffered major damage after the October 2013 earthquake.
De los Santos’s alliance with Team Rama soured and ended in 2015, however, due to disagreements on the use of public funds, among other reasons.
She shifted alliance to Osmeña, whom she used to criticize often as an ally of the latter’s political arch-nemesis, former mayor Alvin Garcia.
De los Santos is now Osmeña’s running mate.
Twelve years ago, both faced off in the race for the mayoral post, which de los Santos lost.
In her bid to become the city’s new vice mayor, Rama stands in the way. Though Rama is the more seasoned politician as he had served as vice mayor for three straight terms, from 2001 to 2010, and for mayor for two consecutive terms, de los Santos is putting up a fight.
Superbalita Cebu asked the two politicians how they would solve the pressing problems of the city if elected vice mayor. These are excerpts from their replies.
Traffic and Transportation
MIKE RAMA: For a city like Cebu, we should have moved past these problems and moved on to focusing on uplifting the lives of Cebuanos. During my time as mayor, these problems were very well under control. Unfortunately, the current administration seems to go out of its way just to destroy everything my administration and the people of Cebu have built together. So it won’t take a genius to figure out why waste management became mismanagement and traffic solutions became a quandary.
The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) was a good solution 20 years ago. But now, it can only be a small part of a suite of solutions. As vice mayor, it is part of my legislative agenda to work with the private sector to simultaneously work on a subway system to minimize traffic disturbance, and develop walkable areas to encourage Cebuanos to park their cars and walk sections of the city. At the same time, we widen diversion roads before widening main streets, flaring intersections and introducing roundabouts in the smaller and complex intersections. Then we work with our neighbors in the Metro Cebu Development Project for a rail system for passengers and cargo and also introduce an inter-city highway I call Megaway to facilitate the daily migration.
In the walkable sections of the city, we will make the place more environment-friendly and secure. Just like what we did with Plaza Independencia. We transformed it from a dirty, crime infested place to a wonderful and safe place for the public and families to congregate in.
MARY ANN DE LOS SANTOS: The City Government is actively pursuing the BRT project that will greatly help alleviate the traffic problems of the city. I am actively helping Mayor Osmeña with this issue. Also, I will see to it that the more than 40 Beep vehicles serving the public through their 36 pick-up locations will be properly enhanced and the services improved. I am also fighting side by side with our habal-habal drivers in their quest to legalize the services they provide to the public. I will also make sure that ordinances are passed that will provide free transportation to our students from the mountain barangays, and efficient transportation system for our farmers from the mountain barangays. We also provide free shuttle services to our Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) workers who work at night.
Garbage and Solid Waste Management
RAMA: It is my legislative agenda to help promote community-based technologies that disperse the processing of waste instead of consolidating it, which is time and labor intensive and congests the roads. These community-based systems must be clean, sustainable and incentivized so residents will reduce, reuse and recycle their waste. I’m also looking at a legislation on redeemable tax system for recyclables. By employing technology, companies selling recyclable packaging shall be recording the unique codes of these packaging where the City will retain an amount as redeemable tax. Once these are returned to a redeeming station, the amount shall be given back to the resident. People will then start saving their plastic water bottles instead of throwing them anywhere.
DE LOS SANTOS: As regards the problem of garbage collection, the City Government is tapping the services of private service providers to address the problem. Unlike in the previous administration, however, the process this time is more transparent and readily open to public scrutiny. Lately, the Cebu City Environment and Natural Resources Office has been active in collecting garbage from our rivers, segregation and regulation of the use of plastic. I am fully supporting that effort as well as the direction to convert waste to energy.
Peace and Order; Illegal Drugs
RAMA: Illegal drugs is undoubtedly one of the core problems of the country. Effective policing is absolutely necessary...but the police alone cannot defeat a socio-economic problem. We have to enhance the justice system. The trust in the effectiveness of our justice system is one of the keys to effective enforcement and community participation. It is part of my legislative priorities to provide support for the prosecutorial and judiciary branches to help these deliver their service timely, precisely and fairly.
DE LOS SANTOS: Illegal drugs should be eliminated once and for all. All City Government officials should be supportive of this effort, including those who are running for office. The City Government should work hand in hand with the police on this issue. I also support Mayor Osmeña’s initiative of making sure that our streets are well lighted.
RAMA: One pillar of society that this administration failed to appreciate is the value of vital infrastructure. I’m referring to power and communication. We have to legislate to make Cebu City a base for its own power generation. We have to make the city attractive to environmentally sustainable power generation like natural gas power barges and wind power generators.
DE LOS SANTOS: We need funds to finance our drainage and road cementing, asphalting, and widening projects. Disposing of South Road Properties (SRP) lots to willing buyers at the right price is geared towards that direction. Like the Kawit Island project for example, which will infuse P18 billion into our coffers and provide jobs to 5,000 individuals. I actively fought for it in the City Council because I knew that was the right thing to do. I shall also work closely with our barangays. Having been a barangay captain of Lahug for many years, I know the problems of our barangays, as well as their potentials.
RAMA: It is also my priority to legislate the retention of the CCMC to be under the perpetual ownership of the people of Cebu City. Unlike some politicians who want people to be dependent on them, I want the people to be protected even after I have passed my public service career. I shall make it my priority to make CCMC free to all Cebu City residents, especially those working in physically taxing work like the BPO industry who will lose their medical insurance when they’re out of work. That is providing our people with health security. No Cebuano should have to worry about the treatment of their medical ailments. Every Cebuano should be secured on their health so their meager resources can be dedicated for productive purposes.
DE LOS SANTOS: I shall continue with my advocacies. I shall make sure that CCMC will provide world-class services to our constituents. Also, I will facilitate the full implementation of the Mental Health Ordinance that I authored. It will provide free, holistic, and proactive mental health services to our barangays.
Business and Enterprise
RAMA: A priority of my legislative agenda is institutionalizing the promotion of Cebu City being a Start-up City. I believe the best way to uplift the Cebuanos is for the business, education, professional and government sectors to get together and develop the mechanism to promote foreign investments on technological training and encourage the development of start-up industries. Start the legislative work and develop the environment to make Cebu City the Silicon Valley of the Philippines. Let it be clear that we continue to appreciate the value and benefits of attracting traditional investments. But we also need to start getting these companies to invest in the Cebuanos. Their capital stays with Cebuanos and Cebuanos get a share of the profit and Cebuanos get to run their own businesses. Cebuanos should not be stuck on dead-end or entry level jobs. They should have careers. They should not be deprived of the opportunity to make a business for themselves. Cebuanos should be empowered and not marginalized. (KAL)