Seares: Which local official told another local official ‘Enough is enough’: Guv Gwen or Mayor Mike? Both, to each other... Cebu Port Authority may not be blameless in fight with Cebu City LGU. CPA not exempt from building permit rules, or is it?

CEBU. Governor Gwen Garcia and Cebu City Mike Rama.
CEBU. Governor Gwen Garcia and Cebu City Mike Rama. File photos

‘Poking into’ Cebu City-CPA feud

Last April 1, 2024 people from the Cebu City Government ‘forcibly entered premises” of Cebu Port Authority. At the April 9 press-con with CPA general manager Kit Comendador, Governor Gwen Garcia said “that shouldn’t happen in a place like Cebu.”

CPA was doing construction work that allegedly didn’t have a permit from the City Government.

The incident raised legal questions: (a) Did OBO have authority over the CPA, “an autonomous regional port body”? (b) Is CPA exempt from the rules of the building code?

But the titillating part here is why is the governor “poking into” the city’s quarrel -- and how she publicly “meddled.”

Guv Gwen said the quarrel affects Cebu Province, which, she said, with other LGUs and mayors, "respects and recognizes CPA’s authority.”

‘Enough is enough’ sounds familiar

Guv Gwen told off Mayor Mike, in a quote that stood out more with pubmat graphic used by Capitol media to spread the message across the land:

“Kini ato gihimo, atong gibarugan ang balaod. Enough is enough. Nag-apil-apil ang mayor sa teritoryo nga wa siya’y labot. Dili ni iyang kingdom. Na’y balaod, a special law passed by Congress that bestows upon Cebu, only Cebu, its own port authority.”

The accusation of meddling is familiar. Didn’t Mayor Mike sometime ago also accuse Guv Gwen of interfering with affairs of Cebu City?

Last February 29, interviewed by Ruphil Bañoc on DYHP, the mayor publicly told the governor:

“Enough is enough… I would like to remind the governor that there’s a mayor of a highly urbanized city... Come on. Kanus-a man kono ang gobernador modikta sa syudad? Di na mahimo while I’m the mayor.”

Both lash-outs involve alleged meddling: Cebu City into CPA affairs. The Province into Cebu City affairs.

Mayor Mike wanted CPA construction to stop. Obey building code, he said. Guv Gwen wanted the Bus Rapid Transit work on Capitol property stopped. Don’t photobomb the lovely Capitol, she said.

Overt ‘meddling’ acts, by both sides

The difference is on how each converted the want or desire into an overt act. Guv Gwen issued an executive order/memorandum that instructed the Cebu BRT contractor to cease and desist from any construction on Capitol property, which would obstruct the view of Capitol building all the way from Fuente Osmeña Rotunda.

Later, the mayor alleged, Guv Gwen “communicated” to the Provincial Police Office “concerning the present issue” between CPA and the City Government. Jerone Castillo, one of two key persons on the mayor’s left or right (which is it?), found “most alarming” in the document was a line about Guv Gwen having “interest” not only in the people of the province but also the residents of Cebu City.

As to Rama’s alleged meddling in CPA affairs, the mayor had ordered OBO and City Legal Office to investigate the CPA construction without the required permits from City Hall. Thus, the April 1 "forcible entry" into CPA properties.

Separate laws, rulings to look into

Each camp offers laws as basis for its action. On “interference” with Cebu City’s BRT project, Guv Gwen cites the right of the Province to defend the property it owns and and protect the heritage that is the Capitol building.

Mayor Mike says the Province cannot meddle with the affairs of an LGU that is independent of the Province (“Kinsa man diay mayor?”) and the governor cannot issue a cease-and-desist order against a project principally undertaken by the national government through the Department of Transportation. The mayor’s lawyers can point to the Local Autonomy Law and jurisprudence on disputes arising from national projects in localities.

Guv Gwen relies on the law creating the Cebu Port Authority. Mayor Mike’s lawyers may check out where in the law says CPA can construct in the city without getting a City Hall permit.

Section 301 in the National Building Code, on building permits, expressly says “No person, firm or corporation, including any agency or instrumentality of the Government, shall erect, construction, alter, repair, move, convert or demolish any building or structure, or cause the same to be done, without first obtaining a building permit therefor from the building official assigned in the place where the subject building is located or the building work is to be done.” Looks all-embracing, from erection to demolition of anything.

Still, why can’t they hold talks?

Guv Gwen and Mayor Mike. The Cebu Provincial Capitol and Cebu City Hall. Cebu Port Authority and the local governments concerned, especially Cebu City on whose territory CPA has its headquarters.

If the top officials cannot literally be in the same room, have people from one camp talk with the other camp’s people.

And why the heck can’t the Department of Interior & Local Government (DILG) and the Office of the President -- which has some supervisory/regulatory power over the feuding parties -- bring them together, up front or in the back room, to negotiate.

If that still doesn’t settle things, maybe bring on some boxing gloves and sweat out while waiting for the next local elections.


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