THE group Bando Osmena-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) had a good run in Cebu City politics in the past few decades largely on the effort of its titular head, outgoing Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who himself became a formidable political figure for a long time in the city’s politics for decades now. With him old and sickly and his political stock weakening, how would his BOPK fare in the coming years?
Osmeña was defeated by a younger and healthier Edgardo Labella in the recent elections and he is already in his 70s and battling the effects of the illness that afflicted him, cancer. While his mind may tell him to hold on, his making another mayoral run three years from now may already be dim. His wife Margot already made it known she is retiring from politics. I am sure Margot has told her husband that being shielded from political pressure is the better option for the two of them now.
That does not mean BOPK’s rule in Cebu City politics is totally over. It still holds sway in the City Council largely on the strength of disqualified candidates Sisinio Andales and Alvin Arcilla easing out two Barug PDP Laban bets in the count and its having the majority in the Association of Barangay Councils and the Sangguniang Kabataan federation, allowing it to have allies as ex-officio members of the council.
But we already know how fragile political alliances are. BOPK managed to stay united these past decades mainly because of Osmeña and his iron-fisted and often dictatorial leadership style. But what made the BOPK strong—Osmeña’s leadership style—could also be its undoing. It also ensured that no second-in-command could be developed fully to take over once Osmeña leaves. The respected former allies in Labella and ex-mayor Michael Rama now head the formidable rival Barug.
Osmeña’s running mate Mary Ann de los Santos and the BOPK councilors who won in the last elections are political lightweights in the city. De los Santos lost and was too dependent on Osmeña in the campaign. None of the BOPK councilors could command respect from even their peers. Rep. Raul del Mar himself is already old while Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa is even a non-factor in the House of Representatives. In short, BOPK has no unifying figure in sight.
What we have in Cebu City politics, therefore, is the classic old vs. new setup with the new poised to overwhelm the old and take full control before becoming old itself in the coming years. BOPK may now be exhibiting resistance to reality, but I say that it would succumb sooner rather than later. Without the looming figure of Osmeña, that resistance will soon crumble.
We are thus entering a new phase in Cebu City politics that would expectedly create new conflict in the coming years. One question: Is the Labella-Rama alliance strong enough to withstand future political positioning? Without the BOPK, will Barug PDP-Laban itself be the one that will split? That’s too early to tell and depends on the ability of both Labella and Rama to forge “lasting” unity.