Exciting times lie ahead at the Cebu City Council.
Renato “Junjun” Osmeña Jr., the replacement of Councilor Nendell Hanz Abella, is now just awaiting a certified copy of his appointment papers from President Rodrigo Duterte as new councilor.
His entry into the city council is expected to make yet another twist in the fight for majority rule among the two political groups — Barug Team Rama and Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK), which now will each have eight members.
The tie breaker is Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, the council’s presiding officer, who is allied with Barug Team Rama, tilting the power all the more into the group opposed to the administration of Mayor Tomas Osmeña, an uncle of Junjun.
“I still don’t have the papers I’m expecting. Let’s just wait for it as it will be coming in. I’m trying to secure a copy from Manila. Hopefully tomorrow (today) or a day after (tomorrow), it will arrive. We waited this long. There’s no rush,” he told Cebu Daily News in a phone interview on Tuesday.
For now, he said he only has a digital copy of his appointment paper, which, he said, was sent to him from his sources through Viber.
Osmeña said he was also following up with the offices of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Cebu regarding the appointment and at the same time also trying to secure a certified true copy straight from Malacañang.
If he would get his appointment papers today, he may already take his oath of office by tomorrow, December 7, when councilors from Barug Team Rama are expected to be back in Cebu from a Philippine Councilors’ League (PCL) convention in Vigan City.
Osmeña added he hoped to be able to already submit his papers to the Cebu City Council and start attending the sessions by next week, December 12.
Former Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, the head of Barug Team Rama, welcomed the news of Osmeña’s appointment.
“With that, it’s already a good development. That will bring an exciting Sangguniang Panlungsod since we have now the majority including the vice mayor,” Rama told CDN.
Osmeña, who ran under Barug Team Rama as its candidate for councilor in the south district in last year’s elections, failed to make the cut and ranked ninth, just outside the eight who were elected.
He will be joining Councilors Joel Garganera, Raymond Alvin Garcia, Jose Daluz III, Pastor Alcover Jr., Eduardo Rama Jr., Jocelyn Pesquera, and Philip Zafra in the Barug Team Rama bloc.
On the other hand, the BO-PK bloc, which currently holds the majority in the council as well as the committee chairmanships, also has eight allies in Councilor Margarita Osmeña (the mayor’s wife), Sisinio Andales, Joy Augustus Young, Alvin Arcilla, Mary Ann De Los Santos, Eugenio Gabuya Jr., Jerry Guardo and Dave Tumulak.
But aside from Osmeña, Rama said he was “optimistic” with the comeback of another ally in Councilor James Anthony Cuenco, who has been out for weeks after being meted with dismissal from service by the Office of the Ombudsman on alleged irregularities in the implementation of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) of his father and former Cebu City South District Rep. Antonio Cuenco, when he was still his father’s chief of staff in 2002.
The younger Cuenco currently has a pending petition for review before the Court of Appeals regarding the decision.
If Cuenco does come back, Rama said they will now have “very clear control” of the council.
When sought for comment on Osmeña’s appointment, Councilor Andales of BO-PK said he was happy for him.
Andales said he hoped Osmeña will support the programs and projects of his uncle, Mayor Osmeña, without allowing politicking to get in the way.
As to possible changes at the city council, he said he does not expect it to happen anytime soon.
“I don’t think there can be a revamp because we are still at 8-8. There should just be a status quo for now until such time James Cuenco will be replaced. As far as we (BO-PK) are concerned, let’s just have a status quo, also in the chairmanships,” Andales said.
CDN tried to get the comment of Mayor Osmeña regarding his nephew’s appointment, but he did not respond to several texts sent to his mobile phone number.
For his part, Junjun Osmeña said there was no need for his partymates in Barug Team Rama to worry about his affiliation.
He said he will stick with the group, which recognized his potential and supported him in the May 2016 elections up to the time when he was formally endorsed by the United Nationalist Alliance as replacement of Abella, who was also appointed by President Duterte as commissioner of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) seventh division.
“This is my first venture (into politics). I’m a virgin, I’m very innocent. My father was vice mayor, my brother was a councilor, my uncle is the mayor, my other uncles are also mayors. But I’m not a politician. That’s why I will try to work in my best capacity and do what I have to do,” Osmeña said.
He said he will support whatever will be good for the city.
For his part, Councilor Garganera said they already knew of the unofficial copy of Osmeña’s appointment papers about six days ago, but they decided against making it public while waiting for the official copy.
He said they did not expect much adjustments once Osmeña takes over the position since he has been joining the group’s meetings.
“It’s not a big deal that we have the majority. What we have in our minds is what is good for the city, we support it regardless if we are the proponents or them,” Garganera said.
He pointed out the several times Barug Team Rama councilors voted in favor of the mayor’s programs, such as the land swap deal with the Cebu provincial government for the 93-1 land dispute; the sale of another three hectares of the South Road Properties (SRP); and the implementation of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project, which divided some of the group’s members in terms of voting.
Meanwhile, Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia said they have been following up with the DILG-7 and the DILG-Cebu City to check on Osmeña’s appointment since all documents from the Office of the President pertaining to local government units will pass through them.
At the same time, he said they are also trying to get a copy directly from Malacañang.