MAYOR'S 'THREAT.' When Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama last week "declared war" on the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) after it deployed 24 security guards at the Maritima Ruins, many people assumed he meant a war in the courts, where the City lost in the first round. The City claims the lot and building as its own. CPA says they belong to the port authority.

On Monday, January 23, 2023, at the flag ceremony in front of City Hall, the mayor said something about his "war" on CPA, which tells us more about how the mayor may wage the battle. It may not just be a clash of lawyers and pleadings before the Regional Trial Court Judge Soliver Peras.

In a wide-ranging speech, Mayor Mike described, in a mix of Cebuano-Bisaya and English, the "war" with CP, thus: "I won't add to what I said. I already declared war. Kahibalo na ang atong battery of lawyers ... the treasurer, the assessor, business permit, police, Citom... We should all be one in fighting (against) anyone who will intrude (into) our police power, eminent domain, taxation..."

What did he mean? The "war" might involve the use of City Hall power/influence and resources. As to how the agencies and their respective powers to impose and enforce will be used, one can only speculate. But the "threat" may be interpreted reasonably to mean "make things difficult for CPA and its people." But how and to what extent? CPA's business in the city is limited and not for profit; it is, after all, it's just another agency of the government.

TAX DEC, 2 ARGUMENTS. Mayor Mike, in that speech before City Hall employees, didn't cite legal documents to support the city's claim to the disputed lot and building. Although earlier, the City claimed that it holds a tax declaration covering the Maritima properties, which by its lone self does not prove ownership. The Cebu RTC obviously assessed the initial evidence before it issued the injunction in CPA's favor.

Instead of legal papers, in depicting Compania Maritima as an "intruder," the mayor offered two arguments: (1) The property had long been abandoned as site of any port activity, naming former CPA official Edmund Tan and the head of a stevedoring group head at the port, ex-city councilor Ernesto Elizondo; and (2) The mayor, as then vice mayor and chairman of the city's cultural and historical affairs commission, had been "cleaning up" the Maritima premises.

THE REPUBLIC AS CPA'S ALLY. Obscured if not left out of the public debate is this sobering fact: The Republic of the Philippines is also a litigant in the lawsuit, being a co-plaintiff with the port authority. The preliminary injunction was issued in favor of not just CPA but also "the Republic." City Hall's "battery of lawyers" is pitted against the solicitor general, who filed the injunction petition. If the City will make things difficult for CPA and its personnel in the city, it will also be hurting, in effect, the Republic. And that Republic has its own people and resources.

The mayor may re-think the "threat" against CPA and use instead his political clout with the office of the president.