Don’t look now but the alliance of Barug, Kusug and Panaghiusa appears heading inexorably towards a breakup, potentially endangering Vice Mayor Mike Rama’s dream of reclaiming the office he lost to former Cebu City Mayor Tommy Osmeña in 2016.
Late last July, it looked like Rama had a lock on the alliance’s (and the Duterte wing of the PDP Laban’s) nomination for mayor, but his continued insistence that he alone should decide on his running mate has thrown the unity agreement that he signed with Kusug’s Raymond Garcia and Panaghiusa’s Joey Daluz in disarray.
Panaghiusa, Kusug and the PDP Laban wanted Rama to partner with Garcia, but Rama balked because he already had committed the vice mayorship to another councilor, Dondon Hontiveros. He indicated his rejection of Garcia by not signing the part of the agreement on the composition of the lineup.
Sources say that with the proposed Rama-Garcia pairing not gaining traction because of Rama’s alleged intransigence, some of his colleagues in the administration began exploring other possible partnerships to field in 2022. They ended up reviving the Joey Daluz-Garcia tandem.
The MCWD (Metropolitan Cebu Water District) chairman’s name was earlier floated as a possible rival to Rama as successor to Mayor Edgar Labella, who is almost certain not to seek reelection to allow his body to heal from two serious ailments that resulted in his hospitalization and leave from work for extended periods. Daluz, however, withdrew his name from consideration in order to preserve unity in the city’s ruling coalition.
Now, it is unlikely that he will withdraw unless he is prevailed upon by either President Duterte or Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte to give way to Rama, my sources say. It will be recalled that also last July, the vice mayor met with the President in Malacañang presumably to seek his endorsement. The meeting, which was arranged by Sen. Bong Go, was by itself already an accomplishment for the Cebuano leader, given Duterte’s previous accusation of Rama as a drug coddler. But there is no word until now that he got the President’s support.
The younger Duterte, on the other hand, has reportedly indicated that she will not indorse Rama. Her support will likely go to Daluz although Cebu City ABC (Association of Barangay Councils) president Franklyn Ong, who is also rumored to be eyeing the mayorship, has some backers interceding with the presidential daughter to cast her lot with him.
The possibility that the anti-BOPK (Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan) forces will have two candidates vying for mayor has thus raised its ugly head again. Rama is not expected to back down easily. He already sacrificed his personal ambition, although grudgingly, in 2019 in favor of Labella. He will dig his heels this time.
It is possible that my sources did not get the complete picture or are exaggerating the situation. But two developments that are obviously interconnected are intriguing. The other day, Councilor Phillip Zafra posted on Facebook a cryptic “Independent!” The post drew a like from Hontiveros, who subsequently posted an identical message, also on Facebook.
Zafra was one of Rama’s most trusted men in City Hall before he became ABC president. Hontiveros is the man Rama wants to be his vice mayor even at the risk of losing his allies. It goes without saying that they will go wherever Rama goes.
Tommy Osmeña must be grinning from ear to ear.