Three-cornered fight in Cebu City?

With barely 16 months to go before the mid-term elections, expect the political cauldron to start heating up in January.

In the province, we will see the unity of the administration party severely tested. In Cebu City, a three-cornered fight for mayor could emerge.

During the last quarter of 2017, the PDP-Laban went on a massive recruitment drive that netted politicians of all shades, many of them, unfortunately, at odds with each other. That Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Mike Dino managed to bring them together on the same stage during the massive show of force that was the PDP-Laban oath-taking in Cebu was no mean feat especially when you consider that, until lately, he was just a businessman, not a politician.

But rubbing elbows does not mean burying the hatchet especially in an arena as hypocrisy-filled as politics and I’m afraid that it won’t be long before Dino rues the day he asked old and bitter political enemies to observe a truce instead of resolving their issues. He will soon find his hands full arbitrating conflicts some of which have outlasted generations.

The situation in Lapu-Lapu City particularly bears watching. So do the ones in the city of Mandaue and in Tuburan.

There is no such problem in Cebu City where Vice Mayor Edgar Labella has all but sewed up the PDP-Laban’s nomination as its official candidate for mayor. President Duterte has already been briefed about Labella’s selection by Dino, according to a source, and the vice mayor himself had breakfast with House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in Hong Kong last month to discuss his political plans.

Trouble for Labella could come from a totally unexpected source. Former mayor Mike Rama has told his 2016 running mate that he wanted a rubber match with Mayor Tommy Osmeña, whom he edged in their first encounter for the mayorship in 2013 but who clobbered him three years later.

Rama had promised Labella of his full support in the 2019 elections but he apparently had a change of heart. Political allies including Councilors Joey Daluz and Joel Garganera have been trying to persuade him to honor his promise and give way to Labella but Rama is said to be adamant and has even refused to meet them.

Osmeña is a formidable opponent and is still favored to win over either Labella or Rama one-on-one. Thus the odds against them unseating the incumbent will become even heavier if they both run and split the anti-Osmeña votes. Labella is seriously considering withdrawing from the race but Dino and most of the Barug councilors and barangay captains will not let him, not willing to risk losing the support of Duterte, who has repeatedly accused Rama of being a drug protector.

The last time I spoke to Rama personally, he seemed convinced that a self-imposed temporary exile from politics was necessary in the light of Duterte’s accusations. But when we interviewed him on Frankahay Ta a couple of months later, he wasn’t so sure anymore, saying that he was adopting a “fluid strategy.” Maybe, he heard the “clamor of the people” and cannot resist it.

Or maybe, he just misses the limelight so much.
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