FOR the first time in the midterm political season, the name and image of Michael Lloyd Dino, presidential assistant for the Visayas, appeared at weekend in the news media, along with the two big winners in the elections: Gwen Garcia, incoming governor, and Edgardo Labella, incoming Cebu City mayor.
They were at one forum to present the “united front” of Capitol and Cebu City, SunStar Sunday’s banner head said.
But at the “unity and solidarity meeting” last Saturday (May 25) between the two newly elected officials, there was also, as the backdrop sign at the stage showed, PAOV Dino, a non-politician who said, when he assumed office three years ago, he didn’t wish to engage in politics.
Dino is a businessman who must not have a politician’s bone or streak in his body. Yet the Gwen-Edgar meeting was a master stroke, a not-too-subtle public notice, like “here’s what you get for changing the top honchos of Capitol and Cebu City Hall: unity between Cebu’s premier LGUs.”
Dino was a non-politician, I did say. At least, before he founded the Cebu-based “Bisaya na Pud” organization that helped pressure Rodrigo Duterte to run for and win the presidency in 2016. Or before May 16 in the same year, when he was appointed presidential assistant for the Visayas, whose duties include dealing mostly with politicians.
Those tasks must have exposed him to the art and wiles of politics.
Tangling with politicos
Even while in private business though, as chief operating officer and executive vice president of Fifth Avenue Property Developer Corp.--which partnered with Cebu Province, under then governor Gwen Garcia, on the Ciudad project--he also tangled with politicians.
When the project to develop 2.8 hectares of province land in Barangay Apas was planned and went through government procedures from 2005 and the years after, Mayor Tomas was already sniping at Dino and project partner governor Gwen. One lesson Dino must have learned: a city mayor could use the prospect of a worse traffic problem in the city’s north area as reason for aborting the Ciudad project and even the governor, whom Tomas was also not friendly with, couldn’t do anything about it.
Clashes with Tomas
Dino himself said he wouldn’t engage in politics. He told Rappler in a May 18, 2016 article, he wouldn’t run for public office in 2022. Yet his job as “liaison” of the Visayans to the President and Duterte’s “eyes and ears” in the region require him to be adept at politics even if he himself does not seek election.
Mayor Tomas had charged him with masterminding moves of the opposition Barug at City Hall. One time, last June 22, 2017, the mayor challenged Dino to initiate a recall election against him. In several instances, the two were trading charges publicly. Last April 4, 2018, Dino called out the mayor to answer the accusation in an affidavit before DOJ that he (Tomas) “received a total of P7 million from a drug lord.”
Dino was responsible for tapping Labella to head the Barug slate and bringing the team to the fold of the administration party PDP-Laban. Who could’ve influenced Duterte to pounce publicly on Tomas in three to four occasions and urge Cebuanos, in the crucial last hour, to change their mayor, a propaganda sequel to the “Pulihi na” concert?
Dino may not accept the credit of pushing Labella to the finish line. But the real kingmakers hardly trumpet their success. The businessman had just gone through a fierce political battle though he himself did not run.
It would benefit Cebuanos if he’d use freshly-honed skill in the art of politics and justly-deserved political power to help curb the problems that have long ailed Cebu.