EXPLAINER: In first 50 days, Mayor Rama to fulfill 9 of 21 promises. He may also do what rival Margot O. vowed to do: 'fix' City Hall, take out deadwood and corrupt, overhaul system to run the house efficiently. Plus, for Mike: remove traitors who 'stabbed me in the back.'

·5 min read

AMID the thanksgiving and merriment Sunday, May 15, after a convincing win in the elections, reelected Mayor Michael Rama broke away from script and normal celebratory mood to warn party-mates and supporters it wouldn't be business as usual at Cebu City Hall.

In Cebuano-Bisaya, Mayor Mike chided jobseekers, casual employees, and other favor-hunters depending on the City Government for income that bootlicking ("sipsipizing") wouldn't assure continuity.

CONSIDER BEING WARNED. Rama said "if you are thieves, lazy and incompetent, what else, messy, gossip-mongers, don't pay debts, quarrelsome, back-stabbers, we have to part ways." "Enough is enough," he said in English. On traitors, he said he was stabbed in the back ("gidunggab ko sa bukobuko").

He used to give a similar message to City Hall personnel at Monday flag rites in the run-up to the elections but, post-May 9, he added to his victory speech the issue of treachery.

A few days earlier, Barug Councilor Niña Mabatid accused the party of having "abandoned" her. Mabatid lost to congresswoman-elect Rachel del Mar in Cebu City north by 50,350 votes (slightly less than the lead of Cutie's dad Raul del Mar over Richard Yap in 2019: 53,953).

PARTY INTERESTS. Party matters inevitably will be part of fixing City Hall, a job that, to Rama's rival Margot Osmeña of BOPK, would've been her priority if she had won. Margot, on her "Mom" platform, limited herself to the work of fixing the house. She didn't disclose specifics of her would-be program of government.

In getting rid of undesirables from the City Government, Mayor Mike would've to consider the interests of Barug and those of its allies Kusug and Panaghiusa. Intramurals in the run-up to the elections intermittently threatened Barug unity and the party's chance to win. In victory, the spoils could be a source of friction, as it was after the (Edgardo) Labella-Rama tandem beat the Tomas Osmeña-Mary Ann de los Santos team in 2019.

WHY 21-GUN SALUTE. Mayor Mike used "21-gun salute" to the 21 projects that he promised the city's voters, actually a spin-off from the late mayor Labella's administration, then revised and expanded since he ascended from vice mayor to mayor on Labella's death (as Mike's "lasting tribute"), even as he used it to prep for and do battle in the elections.

The military term -- credit Mayor Rama's flight of fancy -- is supposed to honor the electorate, the 21 gun salute being the highest honor reserved for the national flag, heads of state, royal families, the president, and former presidents.

Nine of the 21 are scheduled for completion in the first 50 days after June 30, when the city's officials take oath, including, per news media reports:

[] Payment of the balance of the 1995 12.315 billion yen loan from Jica for the land-reclaimed South Road Properties;

[] Correction of defects of the joint venture agreement on Carbon Market modernization, which Margot would've sought to block;

[] Break the impasse on the "93-1" lots deal with Cebu Capitol, which would benefit thousands of city residents;

[] Provide free wi-fi "everywhere in the city," which must mean the public spaces all over.

[] A traffic summit, which promises recommendations of measures to decongest traffic, not yet the actual solution to the problem.

[] "Massive" asphalting of city streets, his version of Tomas Osmeña's "asphalt storm";

[] Construction of two medium-rise buildings for "socialized housing";

[] 100% electrification of all city households.

TIMELINE. It's not clear if he'd complete the nine priority projects before June 30, when his ascended term ends and his fresh term begins, or in the first 50 days of the new administration, counted from June 30. He set both periods of time in media interviews.

Whatever, he sounds pretty much determined to get them done.

BIG THREE. Three recurring problems of the city -- which have defied satisfactory solutions to a number of past administrations, including Rama's two full terms as mayor in 2010 and 2013 -- are not in the Priority Nine. They are floods, garbage and traffic.

While they'll start poking at traffic with a summit, actual solution is not in the list. Garbage has pending issues on the system of collections, a contract allegedly disadvantageous to the City (Mayor Mike had long given the contractor an ultimatum) and the questionable waste-to-energy deal that involves building an incinerator at a still unidentified site within the city.

Residents may assume though that the mayor and the City Council can deal with these concerns simultaneously with the work on the announced priorities.

NOT SURPRISING that Mayor Mike still has to deal specifically with the accusation of corruption in City Hall. In election and post-election talks, he has not laid down a policy plan against graft, except for that reference to thieves in last Sunday's celebration ("kong kawatan mong dako"). Rama was also the vice mayor, then acting mayor, and thus a part of the current administration that has been repeatedly asked to account.

BOPK too didn't magnify the issue of graft during the campaign, except probably in some "purok pulongpulongs," which took them up often superficially.

That, despite (a) the earlier outcry from Barug's own Councilor Niña Mabatid, who exposed the "mess" in the City Government and condemned the "ungo" (witch) that allegedly caused it and (b) the repeated calls of the late Cabinet undersecretary and anti-corruption advocate, Clarence Paul Oaminal, for the mayor to crack down on a "Kurakot Gang" at City Hall.

Findings of defects in some City Hall contracts by the Commission on Audit are still to be resolved. A public accounting of billions of pesos spent during the pandemic, requested by Sanggunian led by then vice mayor Rama, has yet to be done.

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