WHEN former Cebu City councilor Jose "Joey" Daluz III resigned, effective March 1, from the ruling Partido Barug to revive Panaghiusa Party, the first thought of City Hall watchers was that he must have been disturbed by still unconfirmed and unsupported rumors that he was being linked to alleged irregularities at City Hall.
The rumor has been fueled and converted to legitimate news by the separate accusations of (1) Barug party-mate Councilor Prisca Niña Mabatid and (2) former Dangerous Drugs Board undersecretary and anti-corruption advocate Clarence Paul Oaminal.
Mabatid has for some time now kept quiet about a figurative "witch" after she disclosed that Barug leaders were going to "fix" the problem. She has not named him publicly because, she said, most everyone at City Hall knew his identity.
Atty. Oaminal, using the name Task Force Haring Tupas on Facebook, was still repeatedly calling out what he called the "Cebu City Kurakot Gang," even after he said he had given one name to Mayor Edgardo Labella.
Serious but no evidence shown
The charges are very serious and come from persons who do responsible and legitimate work: Mabatid, a 2019 election #2 topnotcher and Barug insider; Oaminal, a former Asec, author of books and newspaper columnist, and Cebu City 2015 Charter Day awardee. Yet the public has to see a scrap of evidence of their accusation.
Joey Daluz is not connected officially with City Hall but he is chairman of the board of directors at Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MWCW), to which he was appointed by Mayor Edgardo Labella. Daluz was the campaign manager of Barug, leading the 2019 fight that wrested City Hall from Tomas Osmeña's BOPK.
Daluz, we are told now, did not quit Barug to sever ties with it.
Joey would revive Panaghiusa, which her mother the late "Inday Nita" Cortes-Daluz "espoused," and have Panaghiusa align itself with Barug. As vice president of Barug, it wouldn't be seemly to keep that post and at the same time lead Panaghiusa. Mayor Labella explained that last Thursday, March 4, saying Daluz would remain an ally. Daluz confirmed he "intends to form a coalition" with Barug for the 2022 race.
The political move assumes that Vice Mayor Mike Rama would not run for mayor. Mike has been teasing since last year that he wouldn't file a COC (certificate of candidacy) for vice mayor. Up to this week, while the VM leads the Vaccine Convenors, both Mayor Labella and VM Rama have been professing friendship with each other. But the months leading to the October 1 to 8 deadline for COC filing would be crucial.
If Mike and Edgar couldn't agree on who'd run for mayor, the Daluz plan may collapse. That's the linchpin, as it was in the 2019 election. A three-cornered fight would be fatal to Barug and Panaghiusa, if Daluz's revival would push through.
Still, in case of a Labella-Rama breakup, the mayor wouldn't be left without a party. There could be Daluz's Panaghiusa waiting for that probable scenario.
But who hold the franchise to Panaghiusa, as it appears in the Comelec list of political parties? John Osmeña, who died last March 1, and -- wait for it -- Mike Rama.
The name of Joey Daluz or that of his mom, Inday Nita, does not appear in the Comelec list as founder or organizer. Apparently, Joey could sail Panaghiusa smoothly only if VM Rama would be on the same boat with Mayor Labella.
There could be a legal brawl over Panaghiusa if Mike and Edgar wouldn't be fighting on the same side in the next election. Mike might decide not to allow Daluz to use Panaghiusa. Or Daluz might question Mike's being president and listed organizer of one party (Barug) and founder/organizer of another party (Panaghiusa).
By the way, an explanation to the Mike and Sonny collaboration in registering Panaghiusa: When Rama ran for reelection as city mayor in 2016, his party was Partido Panaghiusa-Team Rama-UNA. His campaign pitch was "Shine Cebu City 2016." It didn't shine: he lost to come-backing Tomas Osmeña.
Fictional witch, band of thieves?
The crucial element would be an unbroken alliance between Mike and Edgar. One must give way to, and support, the other -- or the careers of both could explode.
The mayor might choose not to run if his health would not cease being the cause of speculation in the city. If Mayor Edgar quells the suspicions and turns out to be as healthy as a carabao in Cabadiangan, can VM Mike be persuaded to run for congressman in Cebu City south instead?
With only one party (Barug) or two parties (Barug-Panaghiusa), the key to retaining control of City Hall would still be keeping the fires of Mike-Edgar friendship burning.
That and, yes, driving a stake in the heart of Councilor Mabatid's "ungo" and disbanding Atty. Oaminal's "Kurakot Gang," assuming they do exist and are not just creations in their imagination.