IS CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña losing one of the elixirs of his political career, which is influence-peddling? It does seem like that with his reaction to two recent regional and national developments: the relief of Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Patrocinio Comendador and reports that President Rodrigo Duterte, after linking five police generals and three personalities to the illegal drugs trade, would go after erring mayors next.
The mayor has expressed his displeasure over the transfer of Comendador, who was PRO 7 chief for only several months. That could mean he was not consulted about it, or if he was, his preference for Comendador wasn’t recognized. This may have affected somewhat the aggressiveness of his campaign against illegal drugs. Osmeña pays law enforcers P50,000 for every suspected drug personality killed in a legitimate operation.
What is rather surprising is Osmeña’s recent statement that he would not be surprised if he would be included in the Duterte administration’s list of mayors linked to the illegal drug trade. Frankly, Osmeña for me is the last politician I would link to the illegal drugs trade, but he must be thinking he could be linked via association. Surely, he does not know the background of all the personalities he is rubbing elbows with.
But this reaction also shows that the mayor now feels that the Duterte administration is not that of former president Noynoy Aquino that, through then Aquino associate Mar Roxas, he could influence. While he tried linking up with Duterte during some of his visits here, nothing much may have come out of it.
In Cebu, it is Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino who has the President’s ear. And we know who Dino is. He was an executive of a firm that partnered with the Cebu Provincial Government under then governor Gwen Garcia, for the Ciudad project in Barangay Apas. Cebu City. Osmeña, who was then the mayor, blocked the project through the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan-run City Council.
Osmeña milked to his advantage his influence with the Aquino administration and his defeat of former mayor Michael Rama was partly because of this (some say Garcia’s defeat could also be attributed to this because she and Rama suffered a similar fate.) Malacañang suspended Rama twice, the last one together with Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and several Cebu City councilors, allowing Osmeña’s wife Margarita to take over as acting mayor. (It was Malacañang that also suspended Garcia.)
But while Osmeña’s influence with Malacañang is now limited, he is already mayor, even if he does not have control of the City Council. Considering his indefatigable politicking (I mean that in a positive sense), he can already build on the small opening that was given to him by the Cebuano electorate. He needed most the influence-peddling when he was a private citizen and less now that he is mayor.
Actually, my wish for the mayor is for him to focus on governance and not on influence-peddling and going after his political enemies. Admittedly, the Rama administration committed certain lapses in governance, as pointed out by the recent deluge of adverse Commission on Audit reports. That is where the mayor’s focus should be now.