Malilong: Not like a god from Mt. Olympus

The Other Side
Malilong.SunStar file

Mayor Michael Rama said that he felt abandoned by his allies who did not show up at the “prayer rally” for former President Rodrigo Duterte on Feb. 25, 2024. The question is, did he secure their commitment to join the mass action or did he simply assume that they would attend because he would?

About three weeks ago, I wrote about a conversation I had with one of the top leaders of the coalition that supported him in the 2022 elections and his frustration that the mayor does not consult them before making a decision on issues that affect their alliance. Was joining the rally one of them?

Rama can argue that he was not taking sides in deciding to join the rally but his allies and the other top leaders of Cebu, notably Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, obviously did not share that sentiment. And they were probably right. Given the harsh exchange of accusations between Duterte and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. only a couple of weeks before the rally and considering that elections are only a little more than a year away, it was not politically “safe” to do anything that could be construed as sleeping with the enemy. Why show your hand prematurely?

Rama made his bed and will now probably have to lie in it. Fine but was it fair or safe to expect his friends to follow suit?

He should have seen the warning signs. The City Council was not or no longer going to be his rubber stamp in spite of the fact that it was controlled by his partymates. They did not approve his revised real property tax in toto. They drastically cut his P100 billion budget to a more practical level. And even after he gave his marching orders for them to give him what he wanted, they continued to hedge.

In fact, it looks like we’re seeing an impending mutiny, if it is not happening yet. Last week, Vice Mayor Raymond Garcia delivered a privilege speech questioning the propriety of implementing the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit system at the expense of culture and heritage. The mayor responded by saying that he has been stabbed in the back.

And then he conducted a loyalty check. Not unexpectedly, South District Councilor Donaldo Hontiveros, who was the only City Hall elective official with Rama in the pro-Duterte rally, was the most handsomely rewarded after Rama counted warm bodies. The former basketball star was endorsed by Rama as his candidate for north district congressman, dislodging incumbent Rep. Cutie del Mar to whom the mayor earlier pledged support, and brushing aside possible complications arising from Hontiveros’ running for office outside of his current constituency.

As for Garcia, he was last heard saying that all is well between him and Rama. But who is buying that? How could he be comfortable running as vice mayor for someone who has accused him of treachery? Why should he settle for the second prize and in the process engage former City Mayor Tomas Osmeña in what could be a tough fight? Why not go for the gold?

Of course, Rama can always try to make amends and preserve the formula that was successful in 2022, although minus lawyer Jose Daluz of Panaghiusa, who is himself interested in the mayorship. But first he has to learn to be humble and listen to what the others think. Positional leaders ultimately lose their mantle. He should learn to seek consensus instead of acting like a Pied Piper or a god issuing edicts from Mt. Olympus.

This is especially so since there is still that herculean task of dealing with the Marcoses and the fallout from his participation in the Duterte “prayer rally” in front of him. But first things first.


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