Malilong: Rama vs. Garcia

The Other Side
Malilong.SunStar file

Early last month, Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama threatened to sue anyone, even Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, if they continue to “obstruct” the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) project. “I am preparing cases already,” he announced.

About three weeks later, he filed with Malacañang, a complaint against the governor for “oppression and grave misconduct, violation of the Code of Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.” Rama versus Garcia. He was not bluffing after all.

Rama sought the suspension of the governor for issuing a memorandum directing the CBRT contractor to cease and desist from working in properties that are province-owned. He claimed that the governor had no authority to order the stoppage because the CBRT is a national project and it is located in Cebu City.

The question is, will Malacañang accommodate the mayor’s prayer? When exercising quasi-judicial functions, the Office of the President is supposed to act solely on the basis of the law and the facts. That is the theory. In actual practice, will political considerations be disregarded completely?

Not only the law but conventional wisdom says that they would especially since both the complainant and the respondent are supporters of the President. Rama was apparently banking on this when he chose the venue for his charges. We shall, later than sooner, know if his trust is not misplaced.

I do not share the view that the rift between the top officials of the two most significant local government units (LGUs) in the island is all bad. In fact, we need it to promote fiscalization. With them quarreling, each will have to watch his or her steps. He or she cannot behave like an emperor of their territorial jurisdictions.

As it is, there is no credible opposition in either, especially in the province where the governor’s dominance is unchallenged. Except in Danao City and Cebu City (which does not vote for provincial officials), all the congressional districts, and cities and municipalities are run by Garcia’s men or allies. The last holdout were the Martinezes of Bogo who finally surrendered to her last year.

Vice Gov. Hilario Davide III would have been the logical choice to provide the desired check and balance in the Provincial Government but he has defaulted in that role by keeping silent all these years. He either believes that Garcia was and is always right or he is just reluctant to displease the governor by asking hard even if relevant questions.

Rama enjoyed the same peaceful reign, too until the later part of last year when trusted friends and allies started to disobey him. The situation has since deteriorated into a full-blown mutiny, although yet undeclared.

Still, it is different if it is the governor who is keeping track of Rama, for two reasons. First, she is closer to the President than the Cebu City mayor who joined the Duterte prayer rally at the SRP a few months ago. Second, she is a threat to him politically even if she does not vote in Cebu City. Rama knows that if he has no qualms about suing a fellow Cebuano and a party-mate, neither does Garcia.

The only unfortunate thing that could come out of their squabble would be its potential to cause additional delay in the completion of the CBRT project. But Garcia said her concern is the construction of a bus station in the vicinity of the Capitol and Rama was once quoted as saying that he was open to revisiting the bus stop’s design.

Besides, the distance between Fuente Osmeña and the Capitol is much shorter compared to the entire length of the CBRT. Why not work on the other sections while the desirability and legality of erecting the questioned structure is unresolved?


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