Will Rama wrest control of city council?

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Former Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña called a meeting the other day with councilors belonging to his Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) to discuss “recent developments,” which is actually about the city council passing a resolution giving Mayor Michael Rama the authority sell South Road Property (SRP) lots. Four councilors were not invited.

BOPK-aligned councilors Gerardo Carillo, Noel Wenceslao, Ritchie Osmeña and Roberto Cabarubbias signed the said resolution together with Team Rama-aligned councilors Mary Ann de los Santos, Dave Tumulak, James Cuenco, Hanz Abella and Philip Zafra. In the voting, the remaining seven BOPK-aligned councilors who opposed the granting of the authority to sell lost. City Councilor Margot Osmeña was absent.

City Councilor Sisinio Andales, who is with BOPK, said the non-invitees—Carillo, Wenceslao, Osmeña and Cabarubbias--will be called by Osmeña to a separate meeting. But other sources say Osmeña is not inclined to call that meeting but would rather wait for the four councilors to initiate it, an act that is truer to Tomas’s nature.


But one thing is certain. Osmeña’s relationship with the four councilors has been strained because of their daring to sign the resolution. Incidentally, Eugenio Gabuya, the other BOPK councilor who signed the draft resolution but backed off during the session apparently in fear of the BOPK boss, was invited to the meeting.

Was the exclusion of the four recalcitrant city councilors in the BOPK meeting a sign that they are already on the way out? That’s too early to tell. Their being kicked out of the party is actually dependent on two things: Tomas’s mindset and the four councilors’ will.

The former mayor is being made to select between two unpalatable choices: his ego or political pragmatism.

There’s no doubt that his pride suffered a hit from what the four councilors did. If he chooses ego, then he will kick out the four from the party, political consequences be damned. But kicking the four would mean turning over the city council majority to Team Rama (nine councilors as against eight, with the presiding officer, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, a Team Rama stalwart). Tomas can stop that from happening by swallowing his pride and winning back the four, or at least one of them.

Which brings us to Carillo, Wenceslao, Ritchie and Cabarubbias. Are they like the Three Musketeers and D’Artagnan, whose motto is, “All for One and One for All”? Will all of them stick to their independent stance despite Osmeña’s wooing or cajoling? Or will one or two or three of them soften up? Note that they were originally five (sources say six), but Gabuya lost his nerve (I won’t say balls).

If you ask me, the BOPK boss swallowing his pride is possible. And it’s not that he hasn’t done that before.

One example is the 2010 elections. He supported Rama’s bid for mayor even if their relationship was already strained. While he cited other reasons for his action, the main one was political pragmatism. He was running for south district congressman at that time and the south is Rama’s bailiwick. He therefore put political pragmatism over ego.

Those who thought that Team Rama would finally wrest control of the city council after what the four BOPK-aligned councilors did should therefore think again. The BOPK losing the majority in the city council would mean Osmeña losing political leverage with still more than a year before the 2016 elections. That would be a setback of Yolanda proportion.

I don’t think Tomas will allow that to happen, that is, if he can help it.


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 16, 2014.


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