For­mer mayor floated to re­place Abella in City Coun­cil

Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - by Jose Santino Bu­na­chita REPORTER

Is the po­lit­i­cal come­back of for­mer Cebu City mayor Michael Rama go­ing to be ear­lier than ex­pected?

Some barangay of­fi­cials in Cebu City re­port­edly wanted the for­mer mayor to re­place City Coun­cilor Nen­dell Hanz Abella who of­fi­cially ten­dered his res­ig­na­tion on Thurs­day af­ter­noon. Abella took his oath as the new com­mis­sioner of the 7th Di­vi­sion of the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Com­mis­sion (NLRC) af­ter his ap­point­ment was signed by Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte. Coun­cilor Ray­mond Alvin Gar­cia of Barug Team Rama said in a press brief­ing on Thurs­day that Rama was among

the names be­ing floated to take over the coun­cil seat va­cated by Abella, a coun­cilor rep­re­sent­ing the south district.

“It’s true. His (Rama’s) name came out in one of our con­sul­ta­tive meet­ings with barangay of­fi­cials,” he said.

Coun­cilor Philip Zafra, pres­i­dent of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Barangay Coun­cils in Cebu City, said in a sep­a­rate in­ter­view that at least 10 barangay cap­tains and coun­cilors wanted Rama to be the re­place­ment of Abella.

“Ex­cited lang sila nga ma­ba­lik sa paner­bisyo si mayor. Ex­pe­ri­ence-wise, maayo man sad niya pag­dala ang syu­dad (Vil­lage of­fi­cials were ex­cited that the for­mer mayor would go back to pub­lic ser­vice. Ex­pe­ri­ence-wise, he man­aged the city well),” he told CEBU DAILY NEWS.

Rama lost to Mayor To­mas Os­meña in last year’s elec­tions.

While he has a pend­ing elec­tion protest be­fore the Com­mis­sion on Elec­tions (Com­elec), Rama has been busy with civic ac­tiv­i­ties and has just been elected as pres­i­dent of Ro­tary Club of Cebu – Guadalupe.

When sought for com­ment, Rama opted to play coy on the prospect of re­turn­ing to the po­si­tion that he first held when he joined pol­i­tics in 1992.

“I never en­ter­tained that idea (of be­com­ing a coun­cilor). I’m proud that they’re think­ing about it. But ako man na gi­tan-aw (I looked at it). Be­ing there, will it guar­an­tee continuous ma­jor­ity? Wala gi­hapon (There’s none),” he said.

Asked if he al­ready closed his doors on the pos­si­bil­ity of be­com­ing a coun­cilor, Rama replied, “Wala na gani ta mo- en­ter­tain, unsa pa ma’y i- close (I have not en­ter­tained the idea, so what is there to close my doors to)?”

“(What’s im­por­tant is) we will be dis­cussing it as a party. And I have never en­ter­tained that idea,” he said, laugh­ing.

While Abella be­longed to the lo­cal party Barug Team Rama when he ran and was elected coun­cilor, his of­fi­cial party af­fil­i­a­tion was United Na­tion­al­ist Al­liance (UNA), ac­cord­ing to Marchel Sarno, Cebu City north district elec­tion of­fi­cer.

He stressed that Abella’s re­place­ment must be rec­om­mended by UNA, which was formed by for­mer vice pres­i­dent Je­jo­mar Bi­nay to carry his pres­i­den­tial bid. Bi­nay, how­ever, lost to Pres­i­dent Duterte.

The list would then be for­warded to the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent, which would pick among the rec­om­mended names.

While Rama may want to play coy, he ac­tu­ally has the big­gest say on who would be nom­i­nated, be­ing the head of UNA in Cen­tral Visayas.

While the Barug Team Rama coun­cilors ran un­der UNA, they had al­ready shifted their po­lit­i­cal al­liance when they joined the rul­ing party, Par­tido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-La­ban).

Rama re­mained with UNA not be­cause he was loyal to the dwin­dling po­lit­i­cal party but be­cause the PDPLa­ban would not take him in af­ter Pres­i­dent Duterte ac­cused him of be­ing a drug pro­tec­tor — an al­le­ga­tion that the for­mer mayor strongly de­nied.

He was sup­posed to join his al­lies, led by Vice Mayor Edgardo La­bella, in jump­ing to PDP-La­ban but was not in­cluded by the party’s of­fi­cials fol­low­ing his in­clu­sion in the Pres­i­dent’s list of al­leged drug pro­tec­tors and narco-politi­cians.

And this may also be the rea­son why Rama could not be cho­sen as Abella’s re­place­ment, said Coun­cilor Sisinio An­dales of the Bando Os­meña-Pun­dok Kauswa­gan (BO-PK), Team Rama’s ri­val party.

“The Pres­i­dent will not sign Mike Rama’s re­place­ment of Hanz. He was pro­nounced by Digong two times as an al­leged drug pro­tec­tor. I don’t think he will be able to re­place Hanz,” An­dales said in a sep­a­rate press con­fer­ence with BO-PK coun­cilors on Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

Aside from Rama, other names be­ing floated were Inayawan Barangay Cap­tain Luther­lee “Lot­lot” Ig­na­cio-Soon and Re­nato “Jun­jun” Os­meña Jr., who both ran for coun­cilors in the 2016 elec­tions but failed to make it to the Magic 8. They were the only Barug Team Rama coun­cilors who lost in the south district.

Both Soon and Os­meña ex­pressed will­ing­ness to be Abella’s re­place­ment and would wait for the party de­ci­sion.

Rama said the group would for­mally meet on Septem­ber 21 to dis­cuss the rec­om­men­da­tion. “It’s a party mat­ter and we will dis­cuss it as a party in a party meet­ing,” he said.

Abella handed his res­ig­na­tion let­ter to La­bella at 4:35 p.m. on Thurs­day. It was ap­proved by the vice mayor.

“I am thank­ful for the op­por­tu­nity to serve the Cebu City con­stituency dur­ing the last four years. I have en- joyed work­ing with my peers and ap­pre­ci­ate the sup­port pro­vided by the Cebu City Gov­ern­ment dur­ing my ten­ure. And now, I look for­ward to cham­pi­oning la­bor rights for the peo­ple of Visayas,” read his let­ter. His res­ig­na­tion was ef­fec­tive im­me­di­ately. Abella had taken his oath be­fore NLRC 7th Di­vi­sion Pre­sid­ing Com­mis­sioner Vi­o­leta Ban­tug last Wed­nes­day and was ex­pected to at­tend the NLRC en banc ses­sions next week.

Abella started his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer when he ran and won as city coun­cilor for the south district un­der Team Rama in 2013. He was with Barug Team Rama when he sought a sec­ond term in 2016. He, how­ever, left the party to join the BO-PK, headed by Rama’s ri­val, Mayor To­mas Os­meña.

Abella said he was thank­ful to his “class­mates” in the City Coun­cil whom he had worked with for the past four years.

“Hope­fully, they un­der­stand that I have to move to the next chap­ter of my life. For a lawyer, one of the things I want is to be able to pen de­ci­sions. With this op­por­tu­nity in the NLRC, it’s re­ally a dream come true for me,” said Abella, 47.

He said he was not clos­ing his doors to Cebu City pol­i­tics and would con­tinue to at­tend to some ac­tiv­i­ties in City Hall.

Coun­cilor Mar­garita Os­meña, the coun­cil’s ma­jor­ity floor leader, wished Abella well.

“He will ex­cel in what­ever he does. He will al­ways be a part of our fam­ily as long as he wants to be. You can­not stop a per­son’s dream. We’ll miss him,” she said.

Os­meña re­fused to com­ment on the pos­si­bil­ity that her hus­band’s bit­ter po­lit­i­cal archri­val would re­place Abella. “It’s their choice,” she said. There is now an equal num­ber of BO-PK and Barug Team Rama coun­cilors in the City Coun­cil now that Abella had re­signed — eight on each side.

But Barug Team Rama en­joys the up­per hand be­cause party mem­ber La­bella is the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer, who votes to break the tie.

Os­meña said they do not plan to re­lin­quish their hold over the coun­cil’s com­mit­tee chair­man­ships.

“As of now, it’s equal. There’s no ma­jor­ity and no mi­nor­ity. We won’t re­lin­quish yet be­cause they’re not the ma­jor­ity. If we re­lin­quish, that’s aban­don­ing our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” she said.

Coun­cilors Gar­cia and Jose Daluz III of Barug Team Rama said they would not yet in­sist on be­ing a ma­jor­ity in the City Coun­cil.


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