By: Carmel Loise Matus, Margarette Managaytay, Nestle L. Semilla August 26,2016 - 11:58 PM
Former Cebu City mayor Mike Rama will skip the PDP Laban oath-taking ceremony of his Team Rama group. (CDN FILE PHOTO)

Former Cebu City mayor Mike Rama will skip the PDP Laban oath-taking ceremony of his Team Rama group. (CDN FILE PHOTO)

Team Rama signs up with PDP-Laban

The decision has been made. They are leaving their “father” behind.

Councilors and village officials belonging to Team Rama, about 65 of them, have agreed to join the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) without their party leader, former Cebu City mayor Michael Rama.

Team Rama members are expected to be among the about 200 local politicians and their allies who will join tonight’s mass oath taking as new PDP-Laban members to be officiated by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and hosted by Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino.

This after Rama gave his blessing to his allies to take their oath with PDP-Laban, President Rodrigo Duterte’s party, during a closed-door meeting on Thursday night at the Rama compound in Barangay Basak, with party members that included Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella, city councilors and barangay captains.

Rama yesterday said he understood that his party members would need to go without him since he still has to focus on clearing his name from allegations that he is a protector of illegal drugs, not just for his own sake but also for the sake of his family and his party.

Asked if he also plans to eventually join the party, Rama said it may or not happen, depending on how soon he can prove that he is not an illegal drugs protector, as claimed by President Duterte himself.
According to Rama, the need to clear his name is paramount but he still would not know who he should talk to or where and how be would be able to do so.

“I’m alive but dead. I need to be alive again. I have to clear my name. That matter I should not be oblivious (of) and (has to) work (on) it,” he said.

Rama was in the list of police officers, judges and former and incumbent local officials allegedly linked to the illegal drugs trade that the President bared in a press conference on Aug. 7.

“My position has always been, Team Rama will go for PDP. It’s not jumping (to another party). It is something that I even asked permission from UNA (United Nationalist Alliance). That’s already a thing that I’m comfortable in pursuing,” Rama said yesterday.

Rama is not an UNA party member but was designated as a party officer for the elections last May. Team Rama was endorsed by UNA in the last elections and stood by the party’s standard-bearer, then vice president Jejomar Binay, even if their other local allies, like One Cebu led by defeated gubernatorial candidate Winston Garcia, bolted the alliance and later supported now President Rodrigo Duterte, the standard-bearer of PDP-Laban.

Rama disclosed that he was personally invited to join PDP-Laban by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez himself during the formal dinner on July 25 after the State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Duterte, to which Rama was also invited.

He also said that even Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino asked him, “Kailan ka mag-swear in? (When are you going to swear in as PDP-Laban member?)”

The invitation, however, happened weeks before Rama was named as an alleged drug protector by Duterte.

But even after he was named a narco politician, Rama said he still wanted his allies to join PDP-Laban and support the President’s anti-drug agenda.

Dino, in a text message sent to Cebu Daily News, confirmed Rama would not be attending the oath-taking dinner that will be held at the convention hall of the Sacred Heart Center located along D. Jakosalem Street in Cebu City.
He revealed that it was Cebu City Councilor Raymund Garcia who asked him to link Team Rama members to PDP-Laban officials in Manila to inform the latter that they wanted to join the ruling party.

He said that PDP-Laban has made all the arrangements for the oath-taking ceremony but he is paying for the venue and dinner buffet of the some 200 guests invited to the event.

Pearl De Veyra, an office staff of the Sacred Heart Center, told CDN in a separate phone interview that the venue, which can accommodate up to 500 persons, was booked by Dino.

The event, she added, was scheduled at 7 p.m. where a buffet was also prepared. The buffet is at P330 per person.

Dino said Department of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and Undersecretary Benito Ranque are joining Alvarez in the oath-taking ceremony.

No schedule yet?

Labella, reached for comment yesterday, however, claimed that although they already decided to join PDP-Laban, they have yet to decide when they are going to take their oath.

He added that they wanted a separate oath-taking ceremony considering they are a large number.

But he also said that Team Rama members who wanted to their their oath today together with elected officials from other local government units in Cebu are free to go.

“It (oath taking) could be individual. Some may not take the oath together but definitely Team Rama is joining PDP-Laban,” he said.

Asked what is the reason for joining the administration party considering Duterte named Rama as drug protector, Labella stressed that even if Rama was named an alleged drug protector by the President, Team Rama has always been 100 percent supportive of the programs of the President especially his fight against illegal drugs and corruption.

“And we consider this also the opportunity for us to received some projects from the national government or aid,” Labella said.

He added: “Let us remember (that) in the previous administration, Cebu City was practically left behind. Zero! There was nothing given to us even at the time we had emergency. (When Cebu City was hit by Supertyphoon) Yolanda (in November 2013), we did not receive anything from the national government,” he added.

He said that joining PDP-Laban is a welcome development from all of them and for Cebu.

Osmeña’s comment

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, in a separate interview, said the President should be asked what is more important to him, his anti-drug campaign or politics, since the Team Rama allies could not dissociate themselves from the issues involving Rama.

“The key question is that they are not fooling anybody, they are all devoted to Mike Rama who has been suspected of protecting drug lords. Is this the image that the administration wants to project? That politics is more important than drugs?” Osmeña asked.

Osmeña said that while the decision of Team Rama to join PDP-Laban is none of his business, he said he would still want to suggest to the President to tell Rama to undergo lie detector test with him to find out if Rama is really connected with suspected drug lords.

“Then if he is cleared, then go ahead, take him. Take him to PDP-Laban then. I just want to point out that these people (Team Rama) aren’t loyal to Duterte, they are loyal to Mike Rama,” he added.

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TAGS: Cebu City, Duterte, Former Cebu City Mayor, Michael Rama, Mike Rama, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, Partido Demokrtiko, PDP Laban, President Duterte, President Rodrigo Duterte, Rodrigo Duterte, Team Rama

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