Malilong: Mr. Cool’s plate is full

The Other Side
Malilong.SunStar file

Like all of us, Mayor Michael Rama has his share of character flaws but the one thing that you cannot accuse him of is that he has a quick temper or that he does not know how to mask his anger.

I have known the mayor since we were young lawyers. We joined the same Integrated Bar of the Philippines chapter, played basketball together and rubbed elbows at the Young Lawyers Association of Cebu. At that time, his penchant for singing to the public (as distinguished from bathroom singing) was not yet manifest and there were no symptoms either of his predeliction for long and winding speeches.

With his good looks and a political lineage, it was inevitable that he would become a politician. Back then, I thought that the rough and tumble world of politics would eventually rob him of his cool demeanor. I was wrong. Politician Rama remained Mr. Cool. Either that or he was scheming, the type who does not get angry publicly, only gets even.

It therefore came as a surprise when early this week, he violently reacted to a claim that he was somehow involved in the case of a former basketball player who was killed after a sports utility vehicle hit the young college graduate’s motorcycle before speeding away.

His accusers had demonic and evil intentions in linking him to the killing, Rama said as he directed his lawyers to file charges against his tormentors so that they can be arrested and jailed. He has had enough obviously. You can scream that he’s a lousy and good-for-nothing mayor until your throat hurts but please, don’t call him a killer. Fair enough.

Some people may not see it that way. The mayor has had a lot on his plate lately, including the emergence of a cynical City Council and the growing certainty of a breakup between the Dutertes and the Marcoses. The pressure has gotten to him, they’ll say, which was why he lost his temper.

Between the two, it is the worsening quarrel between President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte that worries Rama. He said so himself. “All those accusations are very, very, very, very serious,” he groaned.

He must have been referring to Duterte’s iteration of a claim, made during the 2022 presidential campaign, that Marcos was a drug addict, and the latter’s retort that the Davao strongman may have been under the influence of fentanyl when he made the accusation. Serious accusations? An understatement. Which Rama sought to correct with his repeated use of the adverb “very.”

Indeed, the Cebu City mayor has reason to be alarmed, and he is not alone in that regard. Many others with an eye to next year’s midterm elections are as worried as Rama is, not necessarily because “the quarrel is bad for the country”— it is, by the way — but because they dreaded that moment when they have to choose who to align themselves with, between Marcos and Duterte.

Rama said he is “standing for authority because I am a constitutionalist.” Marcos is the rightful authority within the ambit of the constitution but recognizing the constitution is an entirely different animal from choosing the leader with whom to hitch one’s political ambition. Who between Marcos and Duterte can better enhance a candidate’s chance of winning?

Tough choices. Worrisome days. Bad time to even suggest that the mayor is a killer.


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