Seares: The 'wars' Mayor Rama has declared: against dengue, floods, landslides. Now, he's 'prepared for war' over the Compania Maritima property. Not to worry. Like the mayor’s other wars, it’s figurative: a court battle, which Cebu Port Authority and the Republic won in the first round.

CEBU City Mayor Mike Rama loves to use the word “war” but he does so figuratively. To declare war on somebody or something, Merriam-Webster says, is “to announce one’s intention to suppress or eradicate someone or something.”

In 2022, on June 24, the mayor declared an “all-out war” on dengue, which had killed at least 16 people in the city, and on August 19, he declared war on floods, creating a special task force for it. Then on November 3 of the same year, the mayor “waged war” against landslides.

EXECUTIVE ORDERS. The dates those “wars” were launched are specific because Mayor Mike issued an executive order for each, detailing his strategy in the campaigns: Executive Order (EO) No. 2, on floods; EO No. 173, on dengue; and EO No. 13, on landslides.

The EO is supposed to make the declaration formal, serious and, yes, specific on how it is to be waged. It also purportedly commits the City Government’s resources and willpower to the battle.

CATCHPHRASES. Whenever he could, Mayor Mike would come up with a catchphrase or slogan for it, as he did on floods, “Gubat batok baha,” and on dengue, “Dengguerra” (a fusion of “dengue” and “guerra” or war).

The name used in the EO on landslides was less combative, “Oplan Likay Landslides,” although that didn’t scale down the news headline (“Mayor wages war on landslides”).

THIS TIME, THE CEBU PORT AUTHORITY. Lawyer Vincent Isles posted on Facebook Friday, January 20, 2023, a lift-out quote from Mayor Mike’s comment on the dispute between Cebu City Government and Cebu Port Authority (CPA) -- and the Republic of the Philippines -- over the Compania Maritima lot and building.

Highlighted was the quote attributed to Mayor Mike: “If they want to declare war, I’ll declare war against them.” Plus Atty. Isles’s comment: “Last week Garcia v. Rama. This week Rama v. CPA. Grabehas gubat diring dapita.” Obviously tongue-in-cheek, with a dash of lawyerly impishness -- yet aptly in tune with the play on words that Mayor Mike loves to do.

“War” is figurative when one talks of the mayor’s fight against dengue, floods and landslides, or other people’s campaign against false news and disinformation. Such kind of wars cannot be literal, unlike then president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, which became an actual bloody war, basing on Human Rights Watch allegations and some accounts in the news media.

GWEN-MIKE 'WAR.' Was the tangle between Mayor Mike and Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia a war of sorts? “Garcia vs. Rama” would hardly qualify as a fight; there was not even a word war. Neither Gwen nor Mike each lobbed verbal grenade at the other.

Gwen’s force was in the way she pleaded her case for the Cebu City Sports Center, which Mike didn’t personally and directly refute. On the subject of the feud -- SRP vs. Abellana -- the battle was not joined as the mayor’s aides spoke out but didn’t tear at the governor’s thread of argument.

City Hall behaved like it owned the Sinulog but then it virtually does, through the huge amount of money it spends on the event (at least P30 million a year) and the influence of city officials running the activity through the “private” Sinulog Foundation.

The Garcia vs. Rama thing was not a “war” even in a figurative sense. But it provided fodder for the satire mill and entertainment for some people who love the genre.

CPA AND THE REPUBLIC VS. CEBU CITY. The legal battle between the City Government and the port authority over the Compania Maritima property must have started more than five years ago, even before the land and building were contractually included in the real estate covered by the Carbon project.

In July 2015, mediation for the lawsuit was reported to have failed. In October 2022, CPA complained of “fencing operations” by Megawide, the city’s partner in the Carbon joint venture. Last December 28, 2022, the Cebu Regional Trial Court granted a writ of preliminary injunction in CPA’s favor, ordering the City “to restore and maintain the Republic’s and CPA’s peaceful possession and occupation of the entire Compania Maritima area.” This week, several weeks after the TRO, the CPA deployed 24 security guards at the Maritima lot and building.

That apparently set off the mayor’s fuse. As one news headline put it, the mayor asked, “You want war?” The answer to the rhetorical question was in the body of the news: Then he will “declare war.”

NOT TO WORRY. Actually, the City and CPA have long been at war -- in the courts. And CPA won the first round.

City residents need not worry. “War,” in the sense the mayor usually uses the word, doesn’t mean a shooting war, not even a full-blown debate on the merits of the lawsuit, which the court wouldn’t allow.

Mayor Mike is mobilizing lawyers, which City Hall has plenty of, not the police or City Hall’s city’s civilian guards. []