Wenceslao: As Team Rama seizes control of council

I EXPECTED Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña to be his usual vindictive self upon his return to City Hall last June 30. And after more than two decades of covering his every political move, I thought I would no longer be drawn in by his ruthless ways. But it seems like, despite his old age, he hasn't exhausted his creativity in terms of finding ways to make people who directly or indirectly cross him pay.

Osmeña announced recently the designation of Raquel Arce, former market administrator and head of the City Hall demolition unit called Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification and Enhancement (Probe) team under former mayor Michael Rama, as nigh shift security guard for the Doña Pepang Cemetery in Barangay Tejero. The move was obviously intended to insult Arce.

Arce is among the former City Hall employees identified with Rama that Osmeña wants to kick out but couldn't because they are civil service protected. Other employees whose appointments were either coterminous with the appointing power (Rama) or were categorized as casuals have been kicked out first by Osmeña's wife Margarita who was acting mayor in May and then by Osmeña himself recently.

Osmeña is probably hoping that by assigning her as cemetery guard, Arce would resign. I say she shouldn't because I don't think there is such a thing as a low or dirty job. There is dignity in every task. Besides, pressure is lesser there. And mayors come and go but employees with the status like Arce stays. Of course, ego is difficult to suppress in this situation so I won't blame her if she quits.

I am not a lawyer, but can employees similarly situated as Arce get some relief from our civil service laws?

***

Lest we forget, Mayor Tomas Osmeña's control of City Hall is not absolute like in the past. For the first time since he was elected to his first term as mayor in 1988, he will have a City Council that will not be beholden to him. At least, some consolation can be mined there by the aggrieved.

That was shown in Wednesday's session presided over by Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, an ally of former mayor Michael Rama. The majority identified with Team Rama didn't give committee chairmanship or membership to Bando Osmaña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) councilors. Labella said they did so because Councilor Margarita Osmeña had said they didn't want those positions. The BOPK councilors apparently want to go easy and instead place all of the burden on Team Rama councilors.

Still, last Wednesday's first regular session of the new City Council was interesting if only because the BOPK councilors have finally gotten their comeuppance. The six councilors, except for Mary Ann de los Santos who only transferred from Team Rama to the BOPK last year, had actually been used to lording it over the City Council. Now they will feel what it is like to be in the minority.

While Labella said that they will never act as obstructionists to the Osmeña administration, the assignment of committee chairmanships and memberships could be a harbinger of things to come. Team Rama councilors showed that they can exercise full control over the said legislative body if they want to. Meaning that this City Council would no longer be the stamp pad that the legislative bodies in Osmeña's previous terms as mayor were. For a pride-full mayor, that's not easy to take.

Osmeña attempted to undercut this by announcing his appointment of the six BOPK councilors as “deputy mayors” (whatever that means) by giving them executive functions. I think that is intended to assuage his and the BOPK councilor's ego more than to give real power to the said councilors.

(khanwens@gmail.com/ twitter: @khanwens)

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