Qs7. Seven questions on VM Rama's political plan: about his 'desire' to run again for mayor in 2022 and the city's problems besides Covid. No Barug breakup, Mike says.

·6 min read

CEBU City Acting Mayor Michael Rama just announced his political plans for next year's elections, the first aspirant to announce his "desire" to run for city mayor.

Mike Rama won the mayorship in 2010 under the BOPK banner and in 2013 under Team Rama but lost in 2016 to perennial rival Tomas Osmeña of BOPK. Under Partido Barug, Mayor Edgardo Labella trounced Tomas in 2019 and Rama, Labella's running mate, won the vice mayor's seat over BOPK's Mary Ann de los Santos.

The questions here are clustered into seven topics, with the answers culled from this writer's interview with Rama Tuesday, September 7, and the acting mayor's press-con with City Hall reporters on the same day.

[1] Vice Mayor Mike Rama said he is running again for city mayor in the 2022 election? How firm and final is that decision? Where would it place Mayor Labella?

In Tuesday's press-con, Rama said he has a "desire" to run for mayor again under Partido Barug, the ruling party in Cebu City since the 2019 election. In a public statement, VM Rama said "we affirm our commitment to serve Cebu City again as mayor." He invoked God "to bless our invigorated quest" and appealed to city voters to "refresh support" for "us." The words "our" and "us" refer to one person, Mike Rama.

On Labella seeking a second term, Mike said how he wished Edgardo Colina Labella" would be his running mate again, "if only circumstances will allow." As early as the PDP-Laban national council meeting in Clark, Pampanga last July, the local PDP-Laban/Barug leaders reportedly picked Rama because of Labella's "still uncertain state of health." Rama didn't say it but it seemed the chance of giving way to the mayor again, as he did in 2019, would now be slim.

[2] How will the Barug slate be finalized? What's the process and when will the public know?

VM Rama would not tell City Hall reporters who his vice mayor would be, as well as the councilors and Congress aspirants of Barug in the city's two districts. He was stingy with information about his moves before the COC-filing deadline.

He told SunStar though that selection of Barug bets will be a "bottoms-up process" and "everything will be based on survey." Presumably, that includes the disputed positions such as the vice mayor's and the congressional seats.

But Rama didn't say running for mayor is contingent upon Mayor Labella deciding once and for all that he wouldn't seek a second term.

[3] In announcing his "desire" to become mayor again, VM Rama mentioned a number of Ramas who were elected to public office. What is the influence of past Ramas on Mike's "desire"?

None of them became millionaires, Mike Rama said in his public statement. Yet they influenced his "desire," he said, to run again for mayor. He enumerated the Ramas who served: his grandfather, senator Vicente Rama, who authored the Cebu City Charter; his father, councilor Fernando Rama; his brother, (Agusan del Norte) governor Eddie Rama; his uncles, (Cebu) governor Osmundo Rama and councilor Cle Rama; his brother, councilor George Rama; his cousin, vice governor Enrick Rama; and his nephews Councilor Edu Rama and Vincent Rama III. They all had, Mike said, "our passion to serve for the best interest of the people..."

It is a "lifelong commitment," he said, which has kept them going "despite all the political intrigues, machinations and setbacks" throughout his 30-year career in politics.

[4] Is the feared breakup of Barug being fixed by party leaders? How about the declaration of "independence" by Councilors Dondon Hontiveros and Philip Zafra? Political watchers wonder who is managing party problems, given Mayor Labella's health.

Mike Rama told SunStar "there is no break-up of Barug, probably just a misunderstanding. To me (the two Barug stalwarts) remain part of our team." He is sure "the issues will be threshed out in the coming days before we file our certificates of candidacy." The COCs are due October 1 to 8.

Rama said Mayor Labella "remains active" on Barug political affairs, adding, however, "more so, through his son JP." As party president, Rama said, he manages the party, presumably solving the intramurals and other problems and "connecting with our coalition partners." Barug reportedly has an alliance with the activated Kusug and Panaghiusa, local parties that were organized in past elections.

[5] Mayor Labella has been taking multiple leaves of absence (all medical but the last one that ended Tuesday, September 7, was personal leave). How do the frequent interruptions affect management of the city during a severe crisis? Would Rama rather wish a specified longer period as acting mayor?

VM Rama told SunStar he didn't mind serving as acting mayor ("the Local Government Code allows it"). He "found no hindrances" during the periods of service as chief executive in an acting capacity.

He didn't mention if Mayor Labella's working from home was adequate to tackle a major emergency that mostly required "hands-on" management and, "on-scene" presence.

[6] Other than coping with Covid-10 epidemic, what are the problems demanding attention at City Hall? Is the City running out of money among them?

VM Mayor Rama specified the garbage hauling contract and the Carbon Market Project -- both of which appear to be flawed and need to be corrected if not rescinded -- as "concerns that can still be managed."

But Rama didn't mention depleted revenues, which Minority Leader Nestor Archival and Councilor Eugenio Gabuya Jr., also of BOPK, pointed out in the last two Sanggunian sessions. Because of spending on anti-Covid response and payment on South Road Properties loan, the City scraped the bottom of the barrel once filled with proceeds from the sale of SRP lots.

[7] The city administration has been devoting attention and energy on the pandemic. Political watchers see two things: (a) local leaders think the election No. 1 issue is performance in battling Covid; and (b) incumbent officials see the use of resources against Covid, particularly dole-outs of foodstuff and medical supplies, as big advantage over their election opponents. VM Rama particularly is giving vaccination a lot of attention. How is the City doing on vaccines?

The numbers the vice mayor gave SunStar: as of Tuesday, September 7, a total of 179,295 people were fully vaccinated and 298,637 had one dose each. Add them up, assuming everyone gets the double vax, the grand total would be 477,932 or just 0.68276 percent of the targeted 700,000 goal to achieve herd immunity in Cebu City.

Its listing-up campaign already netted a total of 659,076 people. What does this mean? The vaccines supply is not enough, or the inoculations cannot keep up with the growing number of registrants. The City inoculates an average of 3,555 persons a day. How many days would it take to vaccinate the targeted number of people?

VM Rama thus wants more vaccination sites. He needs not just more vaccines but also more trained people to run the centers.

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