The Ermita situation

By: Stephen D. Capillas February 09,2017 - 09:28 PM


Last week’s verbal clash between Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña and Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino has brought to the fore the uncertain status of the city’s political opposition.

While the mayor filed charges of obstruction of justice against Dino, the rest of Team Rama’s allies in the barangays have taken quite a beating from the Ombudsman, starting with the suspension of Barangay Ermita Chairman Felicisimo Rupinta and his seven barangay officials.

Aside from Rupinta, other Team Rama–affiliated officials who got suspended by the Ombudsman were former Barangay Sambag I Chairman and now Councilor Jerry Guardo and Barangay Busay Councilman Eliodoro Sanchez.

So far though, it is Rupinta who bore the heavier penalty as his preventive suspension keeps him out of barangay hall for a good six months. But as his followers made clear, they won’t just accept any caretaker appointed by the mayor without any documents signed by President Duterte.

In fact, they would only accept presidential appointees rather than City Hall appointees which is proof positive of how much influence Rupinta continues to wield in Ermita, one of several bailiwicks still held by Team Rama.

Speaking of Team Rama, one would have thought that its founder, former mayor Michael Rama, would have been a lot more vocal about the suspensions meted on his allies. But aside from the occasional press conference or two, “Citizen Mike Rama” is left mostly to attend to his own pressing concern which is to clear his name of the “drug protector” label plastered on him by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Besides, the elections is still a good three years away, and unless the federal system of government is already set up by then, Rama would need to muster all the resources and allies he can get to make another run for public office.

* * *

Which brings us back to the political opposition. Though Rama is far from being quiet, his allies had been left to mostly fend for themselves though their presence in the City Council remains formidable whenever an ordinance or budget item is up for deliberation.

And while Dino may claim that he has bigger concerns than the caretaker dispute in Ermita, the fact that he bothered to issue a statement on the case means that he isn’t taking the situation lightly.

His interest in Barangay Ermita’s leadership vacuum has some local pundits questioning whether he intends to pursue a more active role in Cebu City politics.

That or if Dino prioritizes the President’s clear mandate for him to ensure that the multibillion-peso rebuilding of the Visayas towns and cities that remain incomplete nearly four years after the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda would be completed within the President’s term.

Besides, if one were to tune down the political noise in the Barangay Ermita leadership vacuum, one discovers that the bigger and more important concerns like basic social services, signing of clearances and documents are being taken care of by City Hall.

That’s the priority right now at Ermita along with the assurance that the barangay employees will receive their salaries on time next week. Ermita will survive fine without Rupinta and his officials for six months and it’s up to City Hall to make sure it will do so.

* * *

With drug lords still in business behind bars — in fact they’re thriving even more no thanks to the jail guards and the jail wardens who have been generous in their protection for a substantial price — one wonders what should be done to totally cut them off from their death-dealing trade and make them feel the full brunt and weight of their crimes against the people.

Since the national government somehow found the money to build a multibillion-peso rehabilitation center for the drug users, maybe they can also fund construction of a fool-proof jail facility similar to the US prison Alcatraz that would isolate and lock up these drug lords and other vicious criminals away from the rest of humanity. That way they can do no more harm and benefit from the slow misery of their victims.

Alcatraz, a maximum security prison built in the ’40s which earned a reputation as the world’s toughest prison, was closed in 1963 due to maintenance costs and the brutal treatment of prisoners who were mostly unsuccessful in escaping from it.

In lieu of the opposition to the death penalty, maybe it’s high time the government build a bigger, better prison isolated from the rest of Philippine society to house the country’s drug lords and its worst criminals.

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TAGS: Cebu, Cebu City, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, city council, City hall, Ermita, political, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino, situation, Team Rama

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