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Friday, October 22, 2021

Malilong: Choosing between two Mikes

Our politicians quarrel a lot most of the time but they don’t kill each other. That’s why the ambush-slay of Ermita Barangay Captain Imok Rupinta has sent shock waves to the Cebuano community. I am not suggesting that politics has something to do with Rupinta’s murder; that would be irresponsible. But you just cannot sidestep the fact that the village chief was a politician.

As a public official, Rupinta did not run away from controversy. In fact, at times he courted it such as when he posted signs in houses in his barangay declaring them to be drugs-free. The draconian measure was obviously his way of responding to claims that he was passive in the war against drugs, for which he and other barangay officials earned a suspension from office.

But Rupinta was not heard to have laid his hand on anyone, which makes it quite ironic that he should die violently. He is the first barangay captain, if my memory serves me right, in Cebu City to have been killed in office in recent years.

The police has formed a task force to investigate the killing. Hopefully, they’d be able to solve the crime immediately to calm the nerves of those who have been shaken by the fact that a public figure like Rupinta could be killed with seeming impunity.

Barug Team Rama, under which Rupinta ran for Cebu City councilor two elections ago, is offering a P300 thousand bounty for the arrest of the perpetrators. Rupinta was one of the party’s most effective leaders, a former barangay captain told me. When the PDP-Laban needed warm bodies for its mass oath-taking two weeks ago, Rupinta brought the biggest delegation.

That is only how far they should go in the investigation. Any step further would only muddle the case and render the police work more difficult than it already is.

•••

Speaking of Team Rama, a little birdie told me that they had quite a tense meeting last Thursday. My source described former Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama as emotional when he opened the meeting but calmed down after everyone else has said his piece.

Mike reportedly expressed his misgivings over the directions that the party was taking. At one point, he supposedly asked his key allies if they still considered him their leader or if it was already Mike Dino, the presidential assistant for the Visayas. (In fairness, Dino has not publicly meddled in Cebu politics.)

It will be noted that Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and almost all the Barug councilors have joined the PDP-Laban and while there did not appear to be any conflict since Barug was only a local party, Rama may have been offended when one of the councilors announced after the PDP-Laban oath-taking that Barug Team-Rama would henceforth be known as Barug PDP-Laban.

Rama supported Jejomar Binay in the presidential election and has remained a key official of the United Nationalist Alliance. He was in Manila on the day his allies were sworn into the PDP-Laban to see Binay.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: Rama still packs a political wallop in Cebu City and it would be disastrous for his allies to ignore him.
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