Malilong: A three-cornered fight for mayor?

Malilong: A three-cornered fight for mayor?

It is barely a year since the last election but it is never too early to talk about the next one. Especially in Cebu City.

A couple of weeks ago, Mayor Michael Rama created a stir when he removed Jose Daluz III from the chairmanship of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) for, among others, the supposed inadequate preparation by the water district for the anticipated drought and his alleged failure to attend a meeting that the mayor called to discuss the MCWD’s plans.

Earlier reports quoting the mayor’s lawyer said Daluz’s ouster was decided by a majority of City Hall’s department heads, with Rama voting against, also according to the lawyer. After it was pointed out that the department heads have no business relieving the chairman, City Hall amended the story, claiming that it was in fact the MCWD board itself or at least three of them that decided the removal.

Daluz, who denied having received an invitation to the mayor’s meeting, unsurprisingly defied Rama’s decision. He is still the chairman, he said, until a a new one is elected by his peers, in effect disputing the claim that three of his colleagues have already voted to boot him out and install the vice chairman, Miguel Pato, as replacement.

Daluz has been rumored to be harboring mayoralty intentions and has done little, if at all, to discourage the talks. He is even said to have been among those that were considered to head the city’s administration ticket in 2022 before party leaders finally decided for Rama.

A Daluz candidacy in 2025 would pose a significant problem to Rama’s reelection. Until his appointment to the MCWD, he has held elective public office in the City and will therefore not have to deal with the challenge of recognition by the electorate. Like Rama, he is a lawyer and has political pedigree. The only question is whether he has the wherewithal.

A lot will depend on how the Marcos-Duterte alliance works out in the next few months. If the partnership holds, Rama will have added advantage. If it doesn’t, Daluz’s perceived bid is expected to gain significant boost.

Rama is more identified with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. than with Vice President Sara Duterte. In fact, when he was still fighting for the administration’s nomination in 2022, Rama supposedly failed to secure Duterte’s endorsement. Pundits predict that in case of a split, Marcos will support Rama while Duterte will go for Daluz or for Vice Mayor Raymond Garcia, if he also decides to run for mayor.

I raised this scenario with former Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (Opav) head Michael Dino shortly before Christmas last year. It will not happen, he said confidently. “Otherwise, we will lose to Tommy Osmeña.”

I’m not sure if he is still as confident now. The quarrel between Rama and Daluz looks serious and their differences, irreconcilable. But politics is not known to follow a straight path and with Dino’s huge influence with both, a potentially disastrous three-cornered fight in 2025 may be averted.

Former Mayor Tomas Osmeña must be watching with amusement. Contrary to what his critics claim, he is not a has-been by any measure and can tremendously influence an election regardless of whether he himself runs or supports another candidate.

Rama and Daluz should consider themselves sufficiently warned.


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