Barely months into the Edgardo Labella administration, his vice mayor found himself isolated, his influence pitiably marginalized. Michael Rama suspected that two of Labella’s closest associates were responsible for his banishment from the mayor’s good graces. And now he’s exacting payback.
Former city administrator Floro Casas Jr. was an easier target. He delivered a very emotional tribute to Labella in ceremonies at City Hall before the mayor’s interment, throwing shade at someone who, he said, betrayed Labella. Although he did not name the “betrayer,” it was obvious that he was referencing Rama, who sat stoically, trying heroically to mask any discomfiture from the unexpected tirade.
Weeks into Rama’s assumption as replacement mayor, Casas was gone.
Jose “Joey” Daluz III lasted longer because unlike Casas, he was no longer a City Hall official, having resigned as South Road Properties manager to join the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) as its chairman. Besides, he was the chairman of the Panaghiusa, the political party founded by his mother, the late Nenita Cortes-Daluz which coalesced with Rama’s Barug, and Raymond Garcia’s Kusug for the 2022 elections.
The coalition did not come about smoothly, however, as Rama protested about having to take the group’s choice of Garcia as his running mate. It was rumored that Rama already offered the position to Donaldo “Dondon” Hontiveros and he balked at the idea of having to break his word. He eventually conceded and Hontiveros promptly declared that he was running for reelection to the council as an independent candidate.
It was also rumored that when Rama dug his heels on the choice of running mate, the name of Daluz was floated as a replacement candidate for mayor. While the MCWD chairman did not encourage the idea, he did not discourage it either, according to insiders.
Given this background, it would not be surprising if Rama regards Daluz as a credible threat to his reelection. The Panaghiusa is well organized and Daluz enjoys the affection of many of the supporters of the late Mayor Labella. Besides, he is said to have the wherewithal to maintain a credible campaign.
Daluz was appointed to a five-year term that expires in December 2024. If he decides to run for elective public office, he will have to give up the MCWD. That would most probably be in the fourth quarter of next year, in time for the filing of the certificates of candidacy for the 2025 local elections.
That will be another 12 months of him chairing the MCWD. Does Rama have the tolerance to wait?
He doesn’t, obviously. Early this week, he fired Daluz again together with two other board members who are not his appointees. Rama said he’s doing it to serve the interests of the district and its customers. It may be so, too but he could also be doing it to settle scores and to fortify his flank.
By the way, maybe the mayor can ask his lawyers to check with the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) if he can appoint an all-male board. Last time I heard, the LWUA insisted that the women’s sector be represented by, well, a woman.