EXPLAINER: Barug, BOPK slates begin to take shape, yet are far from final. Disputes over slots must be settled. Neither wants a third force from its own group.

·5 min read

FROM recent developments and bits of information. Real or just floated for reaction, sourced to the ruling Partido Barug and minority BOPK (Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan), the possible slates for the 2022 elections have started to take shape. The probabilities so far:

[] Barug: Vice Mayor Michael Rama for mayor and Councilor Raymond Garcia for vice mayor; Councilor Niña Mabatid for congresswoman in Cebu City north; and a toss-up between Councilors Eduardo Rama Jr. and Donaldo Hontiveros for the House seat in the south district.

That lineup is more or less a party consensus as the decision was reportedly taken at the PDP-Laban general assembly in Clark, Pampanga where party affiliates from Cebu City also converged last Friday and Saturday, January 16 and 17.

[] BOPK: Representative Rodrigo Abellanosa for mayor and Councilor Franklyn Ong, or a tandem of former mayor Tomas Osmeña and Bebot Abellanosa for city's top seats; and former congresswoman Rachel Marguerite "Cutie" del Mar or former city councilor Mary Ann de los Santos for Congress, north district. Tomas's wife, former city councilor Margot Osmeña, might be fielded against Barug's Edu Rama or Dondon Hontiveros. Or Tomas might decide, for the mayor's seat, to battle with Mike Rama who beat him in 2013 and, with Mike's running mate Mayor Edgardo Labella, trounced the Osmeña-de los Santos tandem in 2019.

The pairing is still in parts speculative, based on what "insiders" circulate to the public through contacts in media and social circles, and pre-campaign moves of prospective bets.

NOT ACTUALLY FINAL. While sources in Barug reportedly said the Rama-Garcia tandem is "final," its October list of candidates may turn out differently. As long as possible, each camp wants to keep its slate a secret until it gets fairly reliable intelligence on the rival's choices, which is assumed as standard practice.

Tomas Osmeña, in an interview last January with broadcaster Jason Monteclar, mentioned prospective BOPK bets but put off saying anything more until he'd know whom they'd be facing in 2022. At least until such time as the COC-filing deadline, the first eight days of October, would allow.

(In that interview, asked by Monteclar, Tomas said his "biggest mistake in life" -- a "P130 billion error" -- was "making Rama the mayor." Mike was BOPK's bet in 2010 but won on his own as Barug bet against Tomas in 2013. Then in 2016 Rama lost to Osmeña who in turn lost to Barug's Labella in 2019. Question: would there be a Mike vs Tomas rematch in 2022? Don't rule it out.)

BARUG'S VM, CONGRESS SLOTS. Another reason Barug's or BOPK's final card may not turn out to be what is not known now -- aside from last-minute strategies -- is the usual internal squabble over candidates' slots.

An example is the talk about Mike Rama wanting to choose his own bet for vice mayor. Mike was reportedly overheard saying that as the standard bearer he'd like to pick his running mate.

In next year's race, Barug theoretically aligns with Kusug party of former city mayor Alvin Garcia and Kauswagan party of former city councilor Jose Daluz III. Thus the two other local parties are supposed to take part in the selection process as concession to the alliance.

That, plus the input of the national party PDP-Laban, whose interest in the region was represented at the Clark meeting by Presidential Assistant for Visayas Michael Dino. While national politicians generally keep off local politics, they meddle when they have to, such as when their chances of winning are put at risk.

Then there's the "competition" for the city south Congress slot between Rama and Hontiveros, along with the expected scramble for councilors' slots, eight for each district plus two in the youth and barangay sectors.

Any of those or some other squabble could break up Barug, a threat that it had been trying to avoid since the run-up to the 2019 elections and the first two years of the current administration, when Barug had two potential bets for mayor in Labella and Mike Rama. A third force would've meant easy sailing for BOPK in 2019. Same thing in 2022 if the ruling group led by Barug would break up into two as a fighting force.

NOT THE SITUATION IN BOPK, where Tomas Osmeña has the advantage of (a) controlling the local party, where his word is assumed to shake lesser politicos in their boots; and (b) having a deeper bench on candidates for mayor and vice mayor than Barug.

If an Osmeva spouse decides to run, other aspirants have to submit to adjustments, such as if Mr. Osmeña takes the mayor's slot or Mrs. Osmeña the congressional slot.

The BOPK edge is that it has the timber for the top posts, unlike Barug, which, after Labella and Rama, seems to have run out of heavy material. Edgar gets ill and all of a sudden it has to depend mostly on Mike.

THIRD FORCE. Like any other political tactician, Tomas wouldn't want a reduced BOPK mass base that a splinter force can cause. Examples: Ong running for vice mayor as an independent or Cutie del Mar running outside the BOPK organization.

Neither Barug nor BOPK would want a third force if the new force must emerge from its own voters and leaders. But each major party would be cheering if it would happen to the other.

Barug might use the influence of its national officials to help unify the local party, not excluding its chairman, President Rodrigo Duterte, who at their Malacañang meeting last July 13 presumably had a hand in choosing Mike Rama.