Mike: Why me?
Former Cebu City mayor Michael Rama recalled being roused from sleep sometime before 2 a.m. on Sunday by tearful relatives bearing a bad news: he was named by President Rodrigo Duterte as among the politicians protecting the illegal drug trade.
He was confused. He didn’t know what hit him. He didn’t expect to be on the list that also included Vice Mayor Fralz Sabalones of the town of San Fernando in southern Cebu; Daanbantayan Mayor Vicente Loot, a retired police general previously identified as alleged protector of big-time drug lords in Central and Eastern Visayas regions; and six other policemen from Cebu.
Speaking to reporters hours later, Rama said he was dumbfounded when he learned about the announcement.
“I’m very much saddened about what the President uttered. In my own view, it’s very much untrue. I am not a drug addict. The more I cannot be a pusher, worse a drug protector,” Rama, flanked by relatives and political supporters, said in a press conference at the Rama Compound in Cebu City past 10 a.m.
Rama said he would present himself to an investigation to prove that he was never a drug coddler.
“I’m willing to visit whatever offices, including that of the President. Just tell me where I will go, and I’ll be there. I don’t have any helicopter or a jet plane. So I’ll just have to buy an ordinary plane ticket,” he added.
But he said his bid to meet the President should not be construed as a “surrender,” but only to clear his name since be believed the President was fed the wrong information about him.
“I (am) . . . a law-abiding citizen and (stand) by the rule of law. Wherever they ask me to be at, I’ll be there. I’m very much eager to undergo an investigation to clear the air of doubts and so that justice and truth will prevail,” he said.
Shock and hurt
While saying he was “shocked and hurt,” Rama said he still believed in the President’s sincerity in his relentless campaign against illegal drugs.
“Keep praying. Let us pray for our city, the nation, and our President,” he added.
“I love him because he loves the country. I love him and we need to love regardless who the person is,” Rama said.
Rama revealed his local political party, Team Rama, would have wanted to coalesce with Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan.
“I’ve been wanting to see the President a long time ago. Team Rama wanted to join PDP-Laban. I needed to see the President first but this pronouncement came,” he said.
Rama, a lawyer, said he has no intention to fight the President in the legal front.
“Having to file a case (against the President) and at the same time being supportive (of) his drive (against illegal drugs) don’t make sense at all. My wish and prayer is that these matters will be settled. My priority now is this: Please don’t hurt further my family,” he said.
Rama’s family and allies yesterday expressed both shock and hurt over what they claimed to be baseless accusations against the former mayor.
Rama, saying he was puzzled why his name ended in the list, opined: “It’s not the President who made the mistake. It’s the one who placed it (my name) there,” he said.
“I want to look at the documents. Maybe, the names there were from the time of (retired police general Marcelo Garbo),” he added.
Rama said that when he was mayor, he didn’t have a say on who would head the police in the city because his choices were replaced by Garbo, then the director of the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) and was recently named a drug coddler by the President.
“Two of my police regional directors were transferred, four of my chiefs of police were removed so that (Garbo’s) men could come in. So who was handling the peace and order? The Department of Interior and Local Government (then headed by Secretary Mar Roxas), the Office of the President, and whoever ‘liberal’ in personality at that time,” explained.
“How could I be a protector? I don’t even have the control over the police here. Who am I to protect (a drug lord)?” he asked.
Rama was repeatedly accused by the camp of Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña of being a drug addict. Rama underwent drug test and was found negative of illegal substance use.
The former mayor, who was also linked to the late drug lord Cresistomo “Tata Negro” Llaguno whom he played basketball with, could only laugh at the accusations leveled against him by his political opponents.
“From being an addict, I have now been promoted to being a protector,” he said. At first, the accusations are localized. Now, it’s nationalized and internationalized,” he said.
Rama entertained the possibility that his inclusion in the drugs list given to Duterte was politically motivated.
“You know it’s been too much of being persecuted politically. I cannot discount the possibility that this is again part of my Buhing Kalbaryo (Christ’s passion in Calvary),” he said.
Six months before his term ended, Rama, who supported the presidential bid of former vice president Jejomar Binay, was suspended twice by the office of President Benigno Aquino III.
Last December, Rama was suspended for 60 days by Malacañang over the alleged unlawful removal of the barangay-funded center island project. He returned to City Hall last Feb. 7 but by April, he was suspended for six months along with Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and 12 councilors for abuse of authority when they granted to themselves and the city’s employees a calamity aid of P20,000 each even if they were not victims of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake and Supertyphoon Yolanda that hit Cebu in 2013. Rama did not get to finish his term, his seat taken over by Councilor Margot Osmeña, the wife of Tomas, the Liberal Party’s mayoral candidate, who defeated Rama in the polls.
“My votes went to him (Osmeña) while his votes became mine. I hope it (his inclusion in Duterte’s list) is not switching like what happened in the elections,” he said.
Days before Duterte named those in his list, there were rumors that Osmeña would be among those the President would identify as drug coddlers.
Osmeña, who is now in the US for a medical treatment, even issued a statement saying he expected to be on Duterte’s list.
Yesterday, Osmeña went on Facebook pointing that after Rama’s “social media trolls” kept trying to make him out as a drug protector, “guess who he (Duterte) named?”
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