Seares: ‘Marginalizing’ Mike Rama: Does Labella see him as threat in 2022?

News Sense

“It seems the Labella group is marginalizing Rama and apparently it is being done intentionally, willfully and with premeditation.”--Josephus Jimenez, “The highly unfair marginalization of Michael Rama,” in his column “What Matters Most,” The Freeman, Oct. 28, 2019

Throw in “feloniously, with malice aforethought, contrary to law” and you have most of the jargon one finds in a criminal complaint.

It’s not a pleading though before judge or prosecutor. There is not even publicized complaint against Cebu City Mayor Edgar Labella from Vice Mayor Mike Rama regarding the mayor’s treatment of his vice mayor. At least not from Mike himself. Most things said about their frosty if not yet openly hostile relations, since the Partido Barug winners assumed office last June 30, have been rumor mill fodder, talked and written about but not brought out in the open by either of the supposed protagonists.

Columnist Josephus Jimenez, in his Oct. 28 Freeman column, talked of a “Labella group” and “Labella’s cordon”—not Labella himself—allegedly “marginalizing” Mike Rama. No direct accusation against Labella although the mayor is bound as city chief executive and party leader to know what has been going on, particularly on such matters as allocating job positions for Rama supporters or not including Mike in major City Hall decisions.

‘Insignificant, unimportant’

Is Vice Mayor Rama being treated as “insignificant” or “unimportant,” which the word “marginalize” primarily means?

Jimenez thinks Mike was insulted when Mayor Labella created a governing commission that takes over the top-decision functions of the board of trustees of the Sinulog Foundation, apparently without even consulting the vice mayor who is its chairman.

The Jimenez piece dwelt more on “sacrifices” made by Rama for Labella, notably his sliding down to the position of vice mayor and contributing a lot to Edgar’s victory in last May’s elections. The premise being this: Labella couldn’t have won had Rama run for mayor.

Not totally selfless

Correct but it was not a totally selfless sacrifice because Mike must have known too that if he had insisted on a three-cornered fight, neither he nor Edgar, with most of their councilor bets, would’ve survived the Tomas Osmeña juggernaut, President Duterte’s and the controversial police “distractions” notwithstanding.

The “pamoyboy,” in the guise of what each had done for the other, is interesting but counter-productive. For example, Jimenez cited the claim that Mike got only a 100-vote majority over rival Mary Ann de los Santos in Labella’s turf in Mabolo while the mayor got more than a thousand votes lead over Osmeña in Rama’s bailiwick of Basak-San Nicolas. What is it supposed to show: that Labella’s coldness if not enmity towards Rama started that early, even during the campaign?

Treating them as equals

If true that would make mending broken relations tougher as it would suggest a longer, deeper wound. Jimenez suggested that Labella change his attitude towards Rama or, more accurately, tell the mayor’s people to treat Rama’s people as equals in governance: in sharing the spoils of war and the exercise of power.

Edgar and Mike may have to decide when to tackle this rift, which in the public mind has morphed from rumor into fact: Now, before it can cause worse damage on Barug’s opportunity to show the city that it can do what BOPK had failed to do. Or later, during the next election season, when competing interests within Barug would be more difficult to reconcile.

Matter of ‘positioning’

What neither camp has said openly, and would most likely deny, is that Labella’s group may be “positioning” itself already for the eventuality that Rama would run for mayor in 2022.

That would call for “marginalizing” Mike now so that if Mike Rama would seek the mayor’s seat anew and would become an enemy instead of ally, he wouldn’t be a bigger force than he could be if given the chance to build up his base early.

And in Mike’s camp, the rule of thumb must be to gain as much foothold as it could to prepare for a possible Rama vs. Labella match.

“Marginalizing” could even escalate into “shutting out” and “barricading.”


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