Editorial: Targeting Aguirre

CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña had spoken against Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre a few times in the past. The verbal offensive intensified recently together with Osmeña’s threat of suing the justice secretary before the Office of the Ombudsman for meddling in the cases the mayor filed against Banco de Oro and SM Prime holdings Inc.

The timing of the verbal offensive is perfect because it is being waged when Aguirre is receiving flak for the initial dismissal of the drug charges against self-confessed drug peddler Kerwin Espinosa, Cebuano businessman Peter Lim and a few others. The threat to sue naturally caught the attention of Metro Manila media that has been following up stories about the justice secretary.

Aguirre didn’t deny he had intervened in the handling of the cases but took exception to the meddling and corruption claims. His defense is logical: he needed to do so as justice secretary considering how intense Osmeña’s rift is with the SM group and the possibility that local officials may have influence over prosecutors here. Leveling the playing field is not objectionable--but only if the intention is honest.

But let us set aside for the moment the substance of Osmeña’s complaint and focus on his action. This is not the first time that Tomas, being Tomas, vented his ire on national government officials for not getting what he wanted. In 2016, he withdrew financial and other support for the Cebu City police after the Philippine National Police (PNP) transferred two of his favored police officials contrary to his wishes.

The response was swift and one that apparently rattled the mayor. The National Police Commission stripped Osmeña of his supervision powers over the police. It took weeks of mending fences before the supervision power was restored and the conflict with the PNP was eased.

While Aguirre has been on the defensive on many issues, it is obvious that he still has the president’s backing. He is not about to go anytime soon. And he is not averse to retaliating. When told about Osmeña’s corruption allegations, he said, “Nasaan ang ebidensya nya? Ako ang magpa-file ng kaso.”

It looks like the mayor is into interesting times again.
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