Malilong: Into the dustbin

The Other Side
SunStar Malilong
SunStar Malilong

Late in August 2021, the heads of the three local parties that, with PDP-Laban, formed the administration coalition in Cebu City, met to finalize their plans for the following year’s local elections in the city.

In attendance were then Vice Mayor Michael Rama of Barug, incumbent Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia of Kusug and ex-councilor Jose “Joey” Daluz III of Panaghiusa. Rama had then just met with President Rodrigo Duterte after so many months of trying and was believed to have secured the president’s backing for, or, to quote one of those who were privy to the meeting his “lack of objection” to Rama’s bid to replace the seriously ill Edgardo Labella as coalition standard bearer.

Despite Duterte’s endorsement, the support of Garcia and Daluz was critical to secure victory for Rama and the pair did not appear very enthusiastic about giving it freely. Thus, the meeting. There were four talking points: no “massacre” of City Hall employees, implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit project, modernization of the Carbon Public Market and the choice of Garcia as running mate.

Daluz and Garcia agreed to all four; Rama demurred on the selection of Garcia as running mate. The issue was thought to be a deal breaker until Rama relented.

He must be wondering now whether he made the right decision. In the days following his assumption as mayor after Rama was suspended, Garcia has shown that he is nobody’s minion, not even Rama’s, choosing instead to pursue his own independent policy.

An aggrieved Rama was heard reminding everyone that he was still alive, implying that a radical departure from his style of governance would be premature and self-defeating because he was coming back.

Is he? When? His preventive suspension is “only” for six months, which could even be shortened if he could convince the Court of Appeals that the period is unnecessarily long and therefore unwarranted. Or, considering the number of cases filed against him, he could be slapped with one preventive suspension after another until the last month of the election campaign.

The latter is, of course, only speculation. What is not is the possibility that he, Garcia and Daluz will be political enemies after the filing of the certificates of candidacy in October. I do not see Rama backing down; for him, total vindication can come only in the form of a re-election.

And Garcia? Will he be content with being remembered only as “acting” mayor? Why should he seek reelection as vice mayor and engage the favored Tommy Osmeña in a dogfight? If one has to gamble his political future, shouldn’t it be for all the marbles?

Daluz, on the other hand, has never been shy about his mayoral aspirations. He has a Run Joey Run page on Facebook. Last week, purple-shirted campaigners were seen shaking hands with people in the mountain barangays. And yesterday, afternoon, I saw a van wrapped in Daluz wallpaper on my way to a hotel in the waterfront area.

The piece of paper that Rama, Garcia and Daluz signed in 2021 to evince their unity is well on its way to the proverbial dustbin of history.

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