I BUMPED into Vice Mayor Mike Rama at the Cebu City Sports Center yesterday morning (Friday, Feb. 21, 2020). He had already completed 12 laps when I arrived but he walked two more rounds with us to cool down.
You can say many things against Rama except him being not a good sport. Our last interview with him on Frankahay Ta did not go too well because I became exasperated with his evasive answers and cut him short while he was talking. But as in previous other instances when we sparred, he remained friendly and cheerful when we met, acting as if nothing happened.
That -- not holding grudges -- is what makes him difficult to get angry with. In fact, Rama is easy to like. And it is the reason why he continues to maintain a sizable political following notwithstanding his defeat to Tommy Osmeña in 2013, his having been smeared as a drug dealer and his “demotion” (a supreme sacrifice, he said) to vice mayor under Mayor Edgar Labella.
Is a “promotion” to mayor in the immediate future (read 2022) in his plans? He denies it emphatically before the public but his actuations suggest otherwise. In fact, some critics have derided him for failing to “move on.”
You cannot blame them. For even as he continues to profess his unqualified support for Labella, he has many times taken a position different from that of the mayor. When Labella moved to clear Colon St. of obstructions, his vice mayor gathered the sidewalk vendors to tell them that he will plead with President Duterte, through Sen. Bong Go, to spare them. He resigned from the Sinulog Foundation when Labella created a governing board and went straight to the President, courtesy of Go, supposedly to bring to the Chief Executive concerns involving the city.
Rama is playing it smart. Those who, for whatever reason, are disenchanted with Labella or his top people but do not want to ally themselves with Osmeña will find the vice mayor a viable alternative and gravitate towards him. Rama knows that, too.
Take former party-list congressman and city councilor Jun Alcover for example. He has, of course, repeatedly declared that he holds nothing against Labella and remains supportive of him even as he continues to lambast City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. in his radio program and on Facebook.
I think that Alcover is telling the truth about his loyalty to the mayor. His quarrel is with Casas whom he accuses of “sabotaging” the mayor’s promise to give uniforms to some 2,000 habal-habal drivers that Alcover gathered and helped organize at the city’s sports complex.
Casas claims that the real reason for Alcover’s anger was his failure to accommodate the latter’s request to hire the additional people that Alcover recommended at City Hall. Whatever it is, the fact is that the two allies of the mayor have reached the proverbial point of no return, especially after Casas announced that he was filing, if he has not filed yet, a string of cyber-libel and libel cases against Alcover.
Eventually, Labella will have to make a choice: his Little Mayor or his candidate for councilor? Casas is not a politician so it is unlikely that he will ally himself with Labella’s rivals to spite the mayor. Besides, they go a long way back to when Casas was managing Labella’s law office.
There is no such personal link in the case of Alcover. He is certain to react vigorously when pushed to the wall. And who will he turn to but Rama?
I recently spoke to a common friend of the mayor and the vice mayor and he was confident that the duo’s partnership will not break up under any circumstance. Labella will seek reelection while Rama will choose between also seeking another term as vice mayor or running for Cebu City South District congressman, he said.
That we will have to see. In the meantime, it is expected that Rama will continue to play it smart.