Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Malilong: All’s well that ends well?

The Other Side

Acting Mayor Michael Rama has all but clinched the nomination of the administration coalition for Cebu City mayor in the 2022 elections. Sources say an announcement confirming the choice is imminent after Rama agreed to remove the lone stumbling block to his proclamation as the common mayoralty candidate of local parties Barug, Kusug and Panaghiusa and the ruling national party, PDP Laban.

As the second highest ranking elected city official in the PDP Laban-led coalition, Rama is the logical choice to lead it in 2022, replacing Mayor Edgar Labella, who is widely believed to have decided to take a respite from politics to have time to address his medical issues. Rama also wanted to run for mayor in 2019 but, hounded by allegations from President Duterte that he was a drug protector, gave way to Labella in what he famously calls his “supreme personal sacrifice.”

But he alienated a number of Labella’s supporters because of his incessant criticism of the mayor and his recent demand that Labella’s family publicly disclose his real physical condition did little to ease their resentment. Some political bridges may have been burned beyond repair.

Rama may have, however, gotten the support that matters most. A couple of weeks ago, he talked to Duterte in Malacañang in a meeting that was arranged by Sen. Bong Go. Duterte, it must be noted, has stopped calling Rama a drug coddler. Given that the President is not known to apologize for every mistake, his silence may be the closest thing to a vindication that Rama can ever have.

Unless Duterte openly endorses him as his candidate and campaigns for him, although not as vigorously as he reportedly promised to campaign for his assistant for the Visayas, Michael Dino, should the latter decide to run for the mayorship himself (he politely but firmly declined, I was told). Duterte can raise Rama’s hand for starters.

What transpired during the meeting has not been revealed until now but Rama’s body language when he returned from Manila indicated that he had at least secured a “no objection” to his candidacy from Duterte. Interestingly, it was after that meeting that the three local partners of the PDP Laban agreed that Rama was their candidate.

So they drafted a document containing the terms and conditions of their agreement. Among them: that there will be no “massacre” of employees at City Hall, that the Bus Rapid Transit project shall be pursued and that the modernization of the Carbon Market shall continue. MCWD Chairman Joey Daluz signed all the terms and conditions in behalf of Panaghiusa and so did Councilor Raymond Garcia representing Kusug.

Rama also indicated his agreement to all the conditions except the one that designated Garcia as his running mate. Rama argued that as the candidate for mayor, he should be given the free hand to pick his vice mayor. His insistence brought them back to square one with Daluz once more mentioned as a possible candidate for mayor.

The rumor is that Rama wanted Councilor Dondon Hontiveros as running mate and had in fact sounded off the former professional basketball star about their planned team-up. How to break the news to Hontiveros that there has been a change in plans explained Rama’s reluctance in accepting Garcia.

As a political veteran, Rama knows that he stands to lose more in giving up on the coalition than in disappointing a friend. Last week, he reportedly agreed to take Garcia over Hontiveros as his running mate. All’s well that ends well?


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