WHEN asked, in Tuesday's (January 31, 2023) press-con, for (a) update of the complaint of nepotism and other offenses against him and (b) whether the two brothers-in-law he hired would be removed, Mayor Mike Rama shot back, "Who wants them removed?...Should love be stopped? Should marriage be removed?"

His point being: The two brothers of his wife, Malou Jimenez Mandanat, were employed before he married her (on October 28, 2021).

Would marriage be the reason for sacking his in-laws? A news story in the City Hall-run Cebu City.News & Information in social media is headlined thus: "Mayor Rama: Hinungdan ang kaminyoon aron mga bayaw taktakon?"

But that's not the thrust of the complaint before the Visayas ombudsman. The issue raised there is whether the hiring of the in-laws constituted an offense under the law on nepotism.

IDENTIFYING NEPOTISM. What to reckon in deciding whether the appointment was unlawful? Check it out. It's the relationship between appointer and appointee at the time of appointment: original or reappointment, transfer, or any other kind.

Were they already brothers-in-law when Mayor Mike in 2022 appointed Elmer M. as process server in the mayor's office and Gomer M. as laborer/aide at the city hospital? If they were and are, is the appointment covered by any of the law's exceptions?

The appointment of the Mandanats, made by Mayor Mike or another mayor, before Mike's marriage to their sister wouldn't be flawed. But an appointment made by Mike Rama after the wedding could be questioned, as it's now being assailed before the anti-graft office.

From what law teachers and books tell us, each appointment is judged separately: who appointed, who was appointed, and the relationship by blood or affinity between the two on the day of the appointment. Rama, generally, wouldn't be liable for the appointments of his predecessor; nor would his own appointments benefit from past appointments.

The mayor, adept in love and governance, seeks some shelter under love and marriage. But it's a side issue, implying that kicking out the brothers-in-law is like killing marriage and stopping love, but would've no bearing on the central question: Did the appointment violate the law, is it covered by the exceptions?

WHERE'S THE FOLLOWUP? Mayor Mike must have known he was negotiating a slippery slope, as an argument involving love often is. A news source hardly asks for a follow-up but last Tuesday the mayor did.

The stumped reporter got the chance to think about a follow-up, an extraordinary breather. The mic shifted to City Administrator Ma. Suzanne Ardosa who then recited a long list of activities for the next City Charter Day or, more accurately, City Charter Week. The press-con though ended with no more mention about love or marriage and nepotism.

COTERMINOUS OR NOT. From Mayor Mike's camp, there's only one known, to-the-point defense so far to the complaint of Inday Josa Chiongbian Osmena a.k.a. Jonel Saceda of Punta Princesa, Cebu City. (Saceda is out on bail on an information of cyber-libel filed by prosecutors and former councilor Nina Mabatid.)

And the defense is this, as earlier disclosed by his lawyer Collin Rosell: It's not nepotism because the appointment was coterminous and the brothers were appointed by the previous mayor. Possible reply of prosecutors to that: By legal definition, it's coterminous but it's not the confidential or personal kind covered by the exception. It's coterminous only because it's for a specified period, as appointments of other casuals and job-order appointees are.

Why is the issue being discussed publicly? The litigation could take years to resolve: from the ombudsman to the Sandiganbayan, maybe a side trip to the Court of Appeals, then to the Supreme Court -- unless at the first forum, the investigation level, the anti-graft office quickly squelches it.