Seares: Mandaue City Treasurer Regal Oliva may clash with Rep. Lollipop Ouano for the city’s lone Congress seat. Woman vs. transwoman. Oliva suspects Ouano clan is out to remove her from Mandaue.

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Seares: Mandaue City Treasurer Regal Oliva may clash with Rep. Lollipop Ouano for the city’s lone Congress seat. Woman vs. transwoman. Oliva suspects Ouano clan is out to remove her from Mandaue.
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[] Oliva, rumored to be transferred from Mandaue to a new assignment, says her “hunch” is that Ouano and her camp are “targeting 4 offices intrinsically involved” in May 2025 elections: PNP, DepEd, Comelec, and city treasurer’s office.

[] Oliva won’t resign from the Department of Finance until she finally decides to join politics. If Regal does run, she’ll align with the camp of Mayor Jonas Cortes against whom Jonkie Ouano is speculated to run.

A DAY after news broke that Mandaue City Treasurer Regal M. Oliva announced she suspected that “the local opposition may have a hand” in her much-talked-about transfer, she (a) identified the Ouanos as having sought her removal from Mandaue and (b) if she’d finally decide to jump into politics, she’d like to run for congresswoman. But she wouldn’t quit her finance post “until I finally decide to enter into the realm of politics,” Oliva said.

Oliva told me Tuesday, July 9 (2024), “Congress is something I aspire (for). As a lawyer, legislation is a strength.”

The lone seat of Mandaue City is occupied by Representative Enmarie “Lolypop” M. Ouano-Dizon whose clan is expected -- from moves being made in preparation for the May 2025 local elections -- to challenge the administration of Mayor Jonas Cortes who’s expected to seek reelection. Mandaue City, stripped of the sixth district under Republic Act No. 11257, began as a lone district shortly after the May 2022 elections with Lolypop as its first representative as of June 30, 2022.

FROM FEELERS TO OFFICIAL. The “feelers” about her transfer, Oliva said, started in January this year and “became official” when the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) executive director confirmed communication from House Speaker Martin Romualdez requesting her replacement as Mandaue treasurer. Oliva “surmised” from her sources in the National Government that the request “really came” from Congresswoman Ouano’s office. “The persistent calls for my transfer also came from their camp.” They’ve been “very vocal” in spreading the news “about my impending removal.”

They all lead to politics, Oliva said, as the two families -- Cortes and Ouano -- appear to be politically at odds since their alliance two elections ago. The tension between the two clans “has been felt in and out of City Hall,” Oliva said, during the past few months.

CONNECTION TO SPEAKER ROMUALDEZ. The House Speaker’s wife, Yedda Romualdez, is the sister-in-law of Thadeo Jovito “Jonkie” Ouano, brother of Representative Lolypop Ouano and Consolacion, Cebu Councilor Alfie Ouano. Jonkie is an outgoing member of the Cebu Provincial Board and is talked about to be the Ouano clan’s candidate for mayor against Mayor Cortes next year.

In 2016, Luigi Quisumbing -- allied with Cortes who ran and won as congressman -- beat Lolypop in the race for mayor. Now, Jonkie Ouano is rumored to run for City Hall’s top post in 2025, this time against Mayor Cortes who was his and his sister Lollypop’s ally in 2019.

If Oliva’s transfer is part of the plan targeting offices that will be “intrinsically involved” in the 2025 elections -- PNP, DepEd, Comelec, and city treasurer’s office -- the link to Speaker Romualdez is unavoidably suspect. Oliva told me it’s “only a hunch,” which may or may not be confirmed by developments in the next few weeks.

WOMAN VS. TRANSWOMAN. The battle for the lone congressional district of Mandaue City in 2025 could be Lollipop vs. Regal, a woman vs. a trans-woman. A veteran politician vs. one who hadn’t run an election campaign before.

On the subject of gender, I asked Oliva if media unilaterally changed her pronouns or she asked news reporters for the shift. “In 2012, I identified as queer, thus maintaining the pronouns ‘he/his.’ Only in 2020 that I transitioned and identified (myself) as a transgender woman. Thus, my pronouns are ‘she/her’,” Oliva said. Archived stories about the treasurer used “he” and “his” in 2012 and dropped them for “she” and “her” only in 2024.

Lolypop Dizon, 55 on April 1 next year, a mother of two children, was congresswoman for Cebu’s sixth district (2019-2022), succeeding Jonas Cortes, before she moved to Mandaue City’s lone district (succeeded by Rep. Daphne Lagon). Lolypop is one of the granddaughters of the late mayor Alfredo Ouano and the only daughter of former mayor and ex-provincial board member Thadeo Ouano, who died in 2016.

Lolypop served as Mandaue City councilor for two terms -- 2010-2013; 2013-2016 -- and in 2016 ran for city mayor but lost to Quisumbing. In 2019-2022, she filled the sixth district seat in the House, then in 2022 ran and won the city’s lone district seat.

Most likely Cong Lolypop will seek reelection in 2025 and the more probable opponent, as of now, will be Regal Oliva.

SIEGE ON JONAS CORTES RULE: It would also be a siege on the Cortes-run City Hall, with the Ouanos and probably the Soons battling the Corteses in a bid to recapture the City Government and at the same time keep the lone Congress seat.

Not long ago, those families were all on the same side, under the Kaabag Anak sa Mandaue Cortes, running for mayor in 2019, said then that his dad -- the late mayor Demetrio “Boy” Cortes -- advised him not to burn bridges “because you’d never know when you’d need help.” He may have to burn bridges this time. Or maybe not, he couldn’t be sure, as the 2025 political landscape has shown. The 2019 alliance with the Corteses’ political rivals for many years appeared to be short-lived.

OLIVA NEVER HELD ELECTIVE OFFICE BEFORE. Oliva had worked as treasurer of Liloan Cebu, then as Mandaue City assistant city treasurer in 2008, and was appointed city treasurer in 2013. Mayor Cortes reportedly asked the Department of Finance that they keep Oliva in Mandaue, crediting her for the big strides made by the city in revenue collection and growth of its finances (its current budget: more than P7 billion). Mandaue City’s publicist, Karla Victoria Cortes, called her a “lost treasure of the city.”

Asked about her experience in elective office, Oliva told me: “Never held.” Yet she holds impressive schooling credentials and is a “renowned face in the legal community.”

Oliva is a bachelor of arts in political science graduate of Silliman University; holds a master's degree in public administration, with the highest honors, specializing in public fiscal administration; and is a bachelor of laws graduate of the University of San Carlos. She’s a lawyer, with a special diploma on international human rights at Australian Christian University in Sydney, Australia.

Other than expertise in fiscal management, Oliva prides herself on being “the champion” in advancing the causes of LGBTQIA+ rights and welfare, “a patron of the arts, and a staunch ally to women and children.” She is president of Cebu Lady Lawyers Association (Cella), former president of the Cebu City chapter of IBP, and former deputy governor, IBP Eastern Visayas.

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