Thursday, December 09, 2021

Bzzzzz: Did Mike Rama just blink on cemetery visits? Request for IATF okay flips initial 'defiance'... How Sanggunian may handle Aratea's pay off charge vs 3 top city officials, mayor's son.

Contributed photo

Sara-BBM alliance?

WERE the visits to Cebu City by Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and former senator Bongbong Marcos on the same day, Friday, October 22, merely coincidental?

Whatever, they lit up again the speculation that the public was still being taken for a ride in the "I-will-not-run-or-will-I?" narrative spun by the administration forces. BBM and Sara camps are raising anew the Tease of the Season: a possible Marcos-Duterte or Duterte-Marcos alliance.


Test on defiance

Earlier, Cebu City Acting Mayor Michael Rama ordered that cemeteries in the city be allowed to open on November 1 and 2, subject to these limits: visitors are double-vaccinated, not more than 50 percent of the site's capacity, and must stay for only one hour.

Rama stuck to that even after national anti-Covid regulators IATF declared that cemeteries be closed on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Last Wednesday, October 20, he said he wouldn't follow the IATF order that the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) was enforcing. The next day, October 21, Rama told Bzzzzz, "No change so far."

The "so far" was only up to Friday, October 22, when A.M. Rama sent a letter-request to IATF that City Hall be allowed to open cemeteries and columbaria in the city from October 29 to November 2.

He blinked, said one critic. No, literally and figuratively, as the LGU and IATF had not yet confronted each other on the issue. Even as Mike Rama sounded defiant in public, he said he was also asking the IATF through vaccines czar Secretary Carlito Galvez to explain to the task force the Cebu City position. That was followed by the letter-request, which formalized the initial initiative.

Still, A.M. Rama would've the chance to defy IATF and live up to his rejection of the central government's orders. And that would be when and if Manila would refuse his appeal.

About appeals, he said he wouldn't use the word "appeal," in answer to a reporter who asked him if he'd appeal to the Manila decision-markers. A.M. Rama also expressed disapproval of the word "lockdown."

'NOT DEFIANCE.' Mike Rama's October 22 letter to IATF said "we are not being defiant... we respect its authority. We give it due courtesy as we always stand on the rule of law." They are just asking for an exemption on an activity they've "long prepared for." For a long time, the letter repeated, citing, as side argument of sort, that its vaccination program administered "more than 800,000 doses."

The ultimate test on defiance is resolved when and if IATF says no to Cebu City's request and the acting mayor allows what IATF forbids.


Shooting selves in the foot

The Cebu City Council is being pushed to act on the disclosure of alleged bribes ("under the table" payments) to three top city officials, all non-elected, by quarry operator Benito Aratea in its October 13 session.

Businessman Crisologo Saavedra Jr. -- who calls himself "advocate against corruption and abusive officials in government and protector of taxpayers" -- does the pushing in the form of a letter complaint to the Sanggunian dated October 19. (That self-advertisement won't hurt his candidacy for Cebu City mayor in the 2022 election.)

Even without his complaint, Saavedra said, the City Council may, on its own or "motu propio," conduct the investigation under its right to investigate complaints against City Hall officials, specified, Saavedra said, under Section 14, Republic Act 3857, or the Revised Cebu City Charter.

Would the City Council have the time and the expertise to conduct the investigation? More pragmatically, would the ruling party Barug allow it during election season, as more details about Aratea's "expose" could embarrass the administration and its election chances? Would it shoot its own foot?

At most, the Sanggunian, after a vote, might refer the complaint to the NBI and/or the ombudsman. Atty. Charisse Piramide told Bzzzzz the Crisologo complaint will be included in the agenda for Wednesday, October 27. Only then will the councilors decide whether to call the "publicly defamed" officials and accuser Aratea, as recommended by Saavedra.

ACTION ON ROAD PROJECT. Related to the principal issue of Pardo-Toong road opening or clearing raised by Aratea, the City Council last Wednesday decided to request the city's Department of Engineering and Public Works to comment on Aratea's offer to complete the project for free (but apparently in exchange for the soil and gravel he'd haul from it) and provide the Sanggunian with a copy of its detailed plan for the proposed road.


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