WHEN Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, President Rodrigo Duterte’s daughter, visited Cebu City recently, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino got to escort her around. In one photo, both were flanked by Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and City Councilor Raymond Garcia. Labella is head of the city chapter of the administration party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
Driving a wedge is a good political strategy, with Mayor Tomas Osmeña among its believers. A story was floated before Mayor Duterte’s visit here that the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) might link up with Hugpong ng Pagbabago, the group the young Duterte formed in her region. That would have weakened the claim of the local political opposition of getting the Duterte administration’s support.
It looks like that wouldn’t happen now. If there is an advantage the pro-Duterte politicians in Cebu City have, it is that they have the most effective member of the “We Bulong” brigade in Dino. And Osmeña himself made it easy for Dino and the others to do their thing.
Days before, Osmeña, as a result of his conflict with the recently resigned justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, also trained his gun on the president, insinuating that Duterte is afraid to move against China, which he claimed is the main source of illegal drugs in the country. When stories like that are fed through partisan whispers, the context gets lost.
Can the mayor still mend fences with Sara or find other ways to jeopardize the local PDP-Laban’s advantage as far as Malacañang’s support is concerned? With Osmeña, that would be difficult to answer. He is, after all, a good political strategist. But the door to such an opportunity is closing as local politicians prepare for the 2019 elections and the positioning gets frenzied.
If Osmeña fails to weaken the influence of Dino and the Labella group on Malacañang, he could be hit by a very telling blow in the coming months. He could see himself getting suspended from his office as the 2019 polls near, like what happened (or is it, what he did?) to former mayor Michael Rama in 2016, which would Labella, potentially his opponent for mayor, the acting mayor.