Malilong: Let’s talk politics

Malilong.
Malilong.SunStar file

Too early to talk about the 2025 elections? Not in the Philippines.

Local officials are elected, along with congressmen and a dozen senators, on the second Monday of May of the election year. It is going to be May 12 in 2025 unless reset by law.

The filing of certificates of candidacy for those running for local positions—governors, vice governors, board members, city and municipal mayors, vice mayors and councilors—usually takes place in October. In the 2019 elections, it was on Oct. 1-5, 2018. In 2022, it was on Oct. 1-8, 2021.

If the Commission on Elections (Comelec) follows precedence, candidates in the 2025 local elections should file their certificates of candidacy in October next year. That’s only about 10 months from today. Expect therefore the jockeying for who runs for what office, with whom and under what party to intensify starting next month.

Mayor Michael Rama gave the first hint that the political cauldron was already emitting steam in Cebu City when he charged that politics was behind the city council’s decision to cut the 2024 P100 billion budget that he proposed to only P20 billion. The councilors have since increased the amount to P25 billion purportedly because of an error in computing the basis of the disaster fund. The amount, Councilor Noel Wenceslao explained, should be based on the City’s estimated revenue of P100 billion next year.

The increase involves a lot of imagination, if not wishful thinking, considering that the City’s collection this year may not even approximate P10 billion. Since I am not a budgeting expert, let me throw this question back to the City Council: if the 2025 revenue does not reach P100 billion, will the item for disaster fund be reduced accordingly? If not, will whatever is left of the P5 billion be considered “savings” at the end of the year which the council can appropriate for Christmas and other bonuses?

I am not sure if the nearly P4 billion increase was a peace offering to Rama and, if it was, whether the mayor would be pleased or at least appeased. Rama’s political savvy is again being tested and I would not be surprised if the “politics” that he charged was behind the reduction of his budget would trigger a realignment of forces in City Hall sooner than we expected.

It is not only Cebu City that bears watching for possible political upheaval. Mandaue and the first congressional district could be headed towards a split between political allies next year unless a compromise can be had.

There are only two powerful politicians remaining in Mandaue and unsurprisingly, they’re allies: Mayor Jonas Cortes and Congresswoman Lollipop Dizon. Cortes has beaten back all challenges to his leadership including that of Dizon’s family, the Ouanos, before their merger. The mayor is credited with transforming his city into a bustling metropolis and part of the reason for that success is that he has been able to govern peacefully and without interference from a politician, whether friend or foe, including Dizon.

There is therefore no reason for the two leaders to rock the proverbial boat but there have been persistent talks, especially heading towards the recent barangay elections, that Dizon was planning to take on Cortes in 2025. The two will most probably deny that there is tension between them but those close to both swear that each is looking warily toward the other.

In the first district, Talisay City Mayor Samsam Gullas has the unwelcome task of convincing his Naga City counterpart, Val Chiong, not to run against Samsam’s wife, Congresswoman Rhea Mae Gullas.

The Gullases and the Chiongs have been allies since the 1980s, dating back to the time of Val’s elder brother, Enan. We’ve been told that Val has congressional aspirations but has been prevailed upon by Samsam’s grandfather, Eddiegul in 2019 and by Samsam himself in 2022, to give way to a Gullas family member. Will Samsam be able convince Val to cancel his plans a third straight time or will he relent and give way to his family’s ally to preserve unity in the district?

Will 2024 be the year of political breakups or will peace and harmony reign in Cebu? Kathryn-Daniel or Aga-Charlene?

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