CEBU City City Vice Mayor Mike Rama has invited criticism after he announced he wouldn’t dismiss two employees detailed with his office until a test in Manila would confirm the initial finding of positive drug use.
He is once again called a drug protector, although the question mark or sound added to the accusation does not make it any less hurting.
Since Mike Rama was included in August 2016 by President Rodrigo Duterte in a list of alleged drug traffickers and protectors, he has been hounded by the stigma. It wasn’t Duterte who started it; Mike’s former political-mentor-turned-rival Tomas Osmeña first used in March 2009 the tag “drug protector” after Rama allegedly intervened in a 2008 police operation against illegal drugs. The President’s tirade lent to the charge the weight of Duterte’s office and his political clout.
It has been a propaganda nightmare since then, with Tomas exploiting the issue in their 2016 match and continuing to assault his chance in the 2019 fight when Mike slid to the No. 2 post, under Edgar Labella who got the President’s full support. As late as last February, less than three months before the May elections, he was still not totally cleared, with presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo commenting that Duterte publicly raised Rama’s hand “probably just out of courtesy.” Rama won but did it fully vindicate him of the drugs issue?
Maybe not, what with the fresh suspicion that he is protecting two suspected drug users in his office.
He may offer the technical excuse that they are not his employees as the two were appointed to another department, that on social welfare and services, which is under the mayor’s control.
Besides, there are “interventions” required by the Civil Service Commission in its Memorandum-Circular #13, series of 2017, including a “drug dependency examination.” That test will determine if they are experimenters, occasional users or chronic users (or drug dependents). The tagging will determine what intervention to use: Guidance counseling and/or drug testing for six months. Besides, the local test result needs to be confirmed by another examination in Manila.
Bottom line: No immediate firing, which is dramatic sound bite in the news, as was Mayor Edgar Labella’s pronouncement (“drug users have no place in government”), but it’s not what regulations allow.
So why has Rama been quickly suspected of being a drug protector? His past alleged link to illegal drugs, which has not ever been officially confirmed, just the word of Duterte and Tomas Osmeña, whose accusations were not supported by evidence found credible by a court proceeding or a police or Pdea validation.
Rama’s harrowing experience of being accused, labeled and condemned without due process must explain why he is slow in sacking the “drug suspects” in his office.
Mike calls himself a victim of “unverified information” when he was publicly convicted without confrontation or trial, with no shred of evidence other than a President’s list that couldn’t be challenged and a rival politician’s hate-filled potshot. He does not want the two drug “users” in his office to suffer what he suffered.
That’s empathy. That’s also, in a way, appearance of good governance.