Wenceslao: City politics

Bong O. Wenceslao

I VISITED Cebu City Hall recently not only to follow up my application for a senior citizens identification card and meet old acquaintances but also to fish for rumors. My good friend Sam Costanilla also invited me to a gathering of media people who are friends of Ambassador Frank Benedicto at the Grandcon in Banilad. It was a belated celebration for the envoy’s recent birthday.

We are all older now. Years ago, when I was a young reporter of The Freeman, our editor-in-chief then, the late Juanito Jabat, called me to his office and told me to go with him to a gathering initiated by Benedicto. It was a new experience for me because up to that point I was limited to attending press conferences. I wasn’t into socializing.

I would later get an invitation from Benedicto to join his staff as a writer after he asked me to pen a press release in support of the administration of then president Joseph Estrada. But I was determined to pursue my journalism career. What if I joined him instead? My life would surely have taken a different turn. That could be the subject of another article.

The gathering merely served as a side course for what could be considered a fruitful City Hall visit. I got my ID and picked up some rumors, like stories of actions that only bolstered the claim that the administration party is split. I am not only referring to the obvious. Former city councilor Jun Alcover has been hitting City Administrator Floro Casas Jr., for example, because of an unfulfilled promise to the city’s habal-habal drivers. I am referring instead to the dynamics between Mayor Edgardo Labella and Vice Mayor Michael Rama.

One dynamic reminds me of the predicament of some Filipino doctors who, to be able to work abroad, trained for and accepted the position of nurses. The setup got some of them into trouble because as nurses, they could not help continuing to act like doctors. Rama is a former mayor who must now be feeling like he is a better administrator than Labella, his former vice.

I do think that the administration in the city is indeed split into two camps, one with Labella and the other with Rama. This is not surprising because during the campaign in the 2019 mayoral polls, those camps already existed. But they were united because they were facing a common enemy in former mayor Tomas Osmeña. With the Osmeña camp already pushed to the periphery, will Rama openly battle Labella in 2022?

In politics, there will never be permanent friends, only permanent interests. The ideal setup would have been for Rama to run for Congress in the south district and leave the “mayoring” of the city to Labella. But there is this rumor that Rama would only accept that possibility if Labella would also run for Congress in the north district and leave the “mayoring” to the young Turks like City Councilor Raymond Garcia, son of former city mayor Alvin Garcia.

The point there is that the political situation in the city is still fluid. Which leaves me muttering: “Hahay gyud ning pulitika ug mga pulitiko.”