Seares: Representative Cutie del Mar, skipped by BOPK’s Tomas Osmena and Barug’s Mike Rama, can turn to Joey Daluz’s third force. Dondon Hontiveros may set off controversy in cross-over from Cebu City south.

[] Aspirants for Congress, reelectionist or new, need a local party with a complete slate led by bets for mayor and vice mayor. Plans in place or a building: Mary Ann de los Santos with Nestor Archival-Tomas tandem. Hontiveros with Rama-Raymond Garcia duo. Incumbent del Mar still has to speak up. The group left for her is Daluz-Dave Tumulak team.
Cebu City councilors Mary Ann de los Santos and Dondon Hontiveros, Representative Cutie del Mar, Former Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama, Joey Daluz
Cebu City councilors Mary Ann de los Santos and Dondon Hontiveros, Representative Cutie del Mar, Former Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama, Joey Daluz File photos

THE surprises in the 2025 race for the Congress seat in Cebu City’s north district are two publicized rejections of dealt on incumbent Representative Rachel Marguerite “Cutie” del Mar by the city’s major political leaders:

[1] Tomas Osmena, BOPK (Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan) leader, announced last February 29, 2024, his group will support Cebu City Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos, instead of incumbent “Cutie” del Mar. De los Santos will be carried by Councilor Nestor Archival Sr. for mayor and Tomas Osmeña for vice mayor.

[2] Mayor Mike Rama, chief of Partido Barug that currently rules City Government, announced Monday, March 4, he has picked Councilor Dondon Hontiveros in the south district to challenge Cutie del Mar, in the process dumping an earlier plan for Barug to “adopt” Cutie del Mar in the next election.

UNEXPECTED BLOW. Both rejections struck a bigger and unexpected blow on Cutie del Mar. She belongs to BOPK for which she won the Congress seat in 2022 even though the party’s bets for mayor and vice mayor -- Margot Osmena and Franklyn Ong -- and most of its councilor wannabes lost. The incumbent traditionally is “the logical choice,” with the right of first refusal. BOPK is also the party of Cutie’s dad, the late congressman Raul V. Del Mar who for more than 33 years held the district seat for his family and Tomas’s local party.

Barug’s rebuff wasn’t without some irony, if not unkindness. Less than a week before the Hontiveros balloon went aloft, Mayor Rama made public Cutie’s joining Barug as its north district candidate.

Not unlike picking her up and then later dropping her. For which the mayor said he was sorry, blaming “changes in the whole congressional picture” for the change of candidates and strategies.

REASONS FOR THE PASS-OVER. Osmeña decided to pass over Cutie del Mar because, he told broadcaster Jason Monteclar in this week’s video interview, “Cutie does not visit.” She hadn’t visited “her constituents or us (meaning he and other BOPK personalities).” “Cutie del Mar is not Raul del Mar,” who, Tomas said, would come whenever he was needed “bisan gani ginagmay, like bunyag o kasal.”

In Monteclar’s “Not So Late Night Show” interview, Tomas did not say if he considered in his choice of candidate the actual vote-getting capacity of Cutie, who convincingly won the seat twice (2010 and 2022). The former mayor and ex-congressman did not mention if he compared it with the record of De los Santos who lost her past bids for city mayor, city vice mayor and congresswoman (Cutie’s No. 2 rival in 2010) and succeeded only in the Sanggunian races.

As to Mayor Rama, he had one specific reason to drop Cutie: her “apparent role” in collecting signatures for the controversial movement People’s Initiative to amend the 1987 Constitution. The mayor has opposed the movement.

Few in BOPK or in Barug would question the respective chief’s decision on whom to field as candidate in the north or for any other major slot in the party slates. Each party boss may use surveys and other devices but ultimately it’s the leader’s call.

THE HONTIVEROS FACTOR. Mayor Rama’s reference to a changed “congressional picture” highlights the major development that involves Hontiveros.

Hontiveros -- the Saggunian’s No.1 councilor who takes over as vice mayor and presiding officer whenever the vice mayor moves up as acting mayor -- must have explored the chance of changing legal residences and running for congressman instead of councilor again.

Smarting enough to run as independent in 2022 when he could not run for vice mayor, Hontiveros sees the opportunity to move up in his political career. His lawyers must have advised he could run in the north for congressman by transferring his legal residence as then councilor Jun Pe did in 2012 for the 2013 elections. Pe was ultimately disqualified, not for transferring from north district to south district to beat the term limit, but for failure to establish residence. The law requires six months to be a registered voter, one year to be a qualified candidate. Jun Pe’s case did not have to be resolved because he lost in the election.

Hontiveros could be in the 2025 ballot if the Comelec would not move fast enough in resolving an expected protest. If he’d win, the case could go as high as the Supreme Court.

Yet there are handicaps, such as the legal battle Hontiveros might have to face. And the impact on voters in the south, who might feel abandoned by him, and voters in the north, who might see lust for power in crossing boundaries to get a higher position.

Dondon built a mass-rooted structure in the south, which he doesn’t have in the north. And he’d face Cutie del Mar’s own mass-rooted structure, which has already stood for more than three decades. The Hontiveros magic might not shine in the north as brightly as it has shined in the south.

MARY ANN LEAVES IT TO VOTERS. Councilor de los Santos told me Sunday, March 3 that when she lost in 2010 to Cutie del Mar, it was “uphill.” BOPK was a “formidable party and congressman Raul’s influence was very strong.” “Now the political landscape,” she said, has changed. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the people.”

Mary Ann didn’t mention the 2022 election, when Raul was not present and Cutie defeated Niña Mabatid of Barug (45.99 percent over 25.22 percent or by more than 53,000 votes). But then, it was not a Cutie vs. Mary Ann fight.

Earlier, in the 2010 polls, when Cutie did face and beat Mary Ann (58.49 percent over 34.73 percent or by more than 40,000 votes), Raul del Mar helped. In any case, the 2025 election will be a “rematch to watch,” with or without Hontiveros.

STILL FLUID. More “changes in the political picture,” in Mayor Rama’s figure of speech, may happen between the announcements and the next six months or so, before the October deadline for filing of COCs.

Hontiveros might stay in the south, where he is in the most comfortable zone. Councilor Nestor Archival Sr. might not proceed with seeking the mayorship, fearing not only a lack of finances -- as Tomas Osmena said in the Monteclar video -- but also personal attacks in social media commentaries.

And Cutie del Mar’s choice of a mayor-vice mayor tandem might set off adjustments in rival local parties’ lineups.

Not to mention, developments in national politics, which will definitely influence the plans and devices of local politicians.

HEAVIER BRAWL. But even now, in Cebu City’s first district, one may already predict an intense and fierce contest, being assured of three major congressional candidates from as many competing local parties.


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