Seares: Labella may face a hostile City Council, as Osmeña did in 2016

THE newly elected top two officials who will run Cebu City starting June 30 belong to the same party, Barug-PDP Laban: Edgardo Labella, as mayor, and Mike Rama, his vice mayor.

Barug just evicted the long-entrenched leadership of BOPK led by Tomas Osmeña, incumbent mayor, which has ruled the city for decades, interrupted for only one term in 2013.

But the Labella-Rama tandem that will lead the executive department and the City Council may run into turbulent waters, particularly in the Sangguian or legislature.

Eleven-seven control

Rama will preside over a City Council that will be dominated by BOPK councilors (who filed their COCs under LDP). The vote will be 11 against seven in favor of BOPK.

Here’s the plain math.

According to the unofficial Halalan 2019 election tally (100 percent of the election returns, as of 2 p.m., May 19), BOPK won in the north district six seats against Barug’s two seats and Barug won in the south district five seats against BOPK’s three seats. That will be BOPK, nine, against Barug, seven. Plus two more for BOPK from ABC and SK.

The heads of ABC, the barangay councils federation, and SK, the youth councils federation, are leaders of theoretically apolitical organizations. But ABC’s Franklyn Ong and SK’s Jessica Resch were elected under BOPK auspices and patronage and have always voted under BOPK baton in the City Council.

So that brings the balance of power to 11 against seven votes, in favor of BOPK. Rama, the presiding officer, will out-talk anyone else in the legislative room but he is only one vote and can vote only in case of a tie.

Same problem

The situation in 2019 is better for Barug because the mayor and the vice mayor are both Barug. It was also better in 2016 for BOPK because the mayor was BOPK although the vice mayor was Barug.

But the problem faced by Mayor Osmeña in 2016 is the same as what Mayor-elect Labella will face starting this June: a legislature controlled by the opposition.

Tomas at the start of his term three years ago had to contend with a City Council controlled by Barug, with a Barug presiding officer, Vice Mayor Labella. The vote was 10-6, in favor of Barug plus one (ABC chief Philip Zafra), or 11-6. There was no SK head as the youth Sanggunian was suspended at the time.

Council blockade

If the same heat that pervaded the hybrid leadership under Tomas’ 2016 term will infect Labella’s term starting June 30, the new mayor will spend most of his time trying to run the expected BOPK blockade in the City Council. Edgar can shuttle between trying to poach on the BOPK, as Tomas did during greater part of the period from early 2016 to mid-2018, and verbally skirmishing with the opposition.

(Eventually, BOPK got enough defectors--including Mary Ann de los Santos, Dave Tumulak and Jerry Guardo–in addition to suspensions and losses in ABC And SK polls, to wrest control and push the controversial P18-billion Kawit deal in August last year.)

Gentle persuasion

The new mayor might not take the route taken by Tomas. Edgar may resort to gentle persuasion to secure bipartisan support on big-ticket projects.

Things may also depend on whether an active leader will emerge among the BOPK councilors.. Look first at top vote-getters: Nestor Archival and Joy Young in the north: #1 -- 124,466 and #2 -- 112,707, respectively, and Dave Tumulak in the south: #2 – 156,755.

Type “O”

Bebs Andales and Alvin Arcilla, #5 and #6, are senior councilors (fourth consecutive termers) and definitely leader material but the disqualification threat over their heads could be distracting. (Arcilla was #1 and Andales was #3 in the north’s 2016 elections.)

But then most of it will depend on Mayor Osmena: whether he will continue management of BOPK from his Guadalupe residence (with or without the police checkpoint) or just let his boys and girls wage the battle.

But he is Type O: he is not likely to be content with being a rocking-chair bound politician.


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