A new alliance, although informal, is shaping in Cebu City between President-elect Rodrigo Duterte and politicians identified with the Liberal Party (LP) and Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) not just in their common desire to rid the country of criminals with the aid of a bounty system but also politically.
Reelected South District Rep. Rodrigo “Bebot” Abellanosa, who won as a BO-PK-LP bet, yesterday announced he was joining Duterte’s Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
The announcement came just hours after Duterte met with mostly LP leaders that included Cebu City Mayor-elect Tomas Osmeña, who heads BO-PK; Mandaue City Mayor-elect Luigi Quisumbing; Representatives Raul del Mar of Cebu City north district and Abellanosa; and Cebu Sixth District Representative-elect Jonas Cortes. These Cebu politicians supported LP standard-bearer Mar Roxas in the May 9 elections.
The meeting was held at the Level 8 Bar of the Adnama building located at the North Reclamation Area in Mandaue City close to midnight on Wednesday. It was after Duterte left the thanksgiving party at the Cebu Country Club in Barangay Banilad, Cebu City attended by almost 300 of his supporters in Cebu from the Bisaya Napud movement.
“It has become urgent for me to join the political party of the incoming president and support his legislative-executive agenda. The interest of our constituents is foremost so that the projects and programs for them and for the City of Cebu can be carried out thru the agencies and departments of the national government,” Abellanosa said in a text message.
According to Abellanosa, he finalized his decision after talking with Duterte in the Adnama meeting.
Abellanosa was dismissed from public office in 2014 by the Office of the Ombudsman, which found him guilty of grave misconduct for conflict of interest after his school received the bulk of City Hall’s scholarship program funding when he was still city councilor.
But until now, the decision has not been implemented. Abellanosa has a pending petition for review before the Court of Appeals.
Prior to the elections, the Ombudsman asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the House of Representatives to act on Abellanosa’s dismissal but it remained unimplemented.
Abellanosa said he discussed his decision with Tomas Osmeña and assured the latter that he would remain a loyal member of BO-PK.
Osmeña, reached for comment, said he would not stop Abellanosa from joining PDP-Laban, as he was confident Abellanosa would remain with BO-PK irregardless of his national party affiliation.
Osmeña added there was no need for him to bolt LP, even stressing it was too early to discuss party alliances with the next election still three years away.
“I just want him (Duterte) to know that I am with you,” said Osmeña, to explain why he met with Duterte.
Osmeña added he and Duterte have remained good friends despite their different political alliances in the last election.
“My alliance is not with the party. It’s between him (Duterte) and me,” he said.
Reelected Cebu City Councilor Sisinio Andales (BO-PK) said there had been no formal discussion in their party regarding national politics after the May 9 elections, but he would not be surprised if they would end up forging an alliance with PDP-Laban because of Osmeña’s closeness with Duterte.
But Osmeña said he and Duterte only exchanged pleasantries during their “brief encounter.”
“Nothing much was discussed,” he said, saying he left the group before midnight.
Del Mar also said his attendance did not mean he would join PDP-Laban.
He explained that Ding Borja, a Cebuano businessman who owns Adnama Building, merely invited his friends — businessmen and politicians alike — to a dinner party in honor of Duterte, who visited Cebu for the first time since he won the presidency.
Del Mar also stressed that the only ongoing talks between LP and PDP-Laban that he knew of was between outgoing House Speaker Sonny Belmonte and PDP-Laban candidate for House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the representative of Davao del Norte, for LP to join the majority coalition led by PDP-Laban.
Quisumbing, for his part, said he was there to congratulate the new President and to show his support to the new administration.
Outgoing Cordova Mayor Adelino Sitoy, a longtime friend of Duterte, said he was not surprised that LP members have decided to ally with PDP-Laban.
He said Duterte would not refuse them since he needed the number to become the majority in the House of Representatives in order to push for a charter change, for the shift of the presidential to federal form of government.
Sitoy said he was not at the Adnama party but he instead met with Duterte at the general aviation area at the Mactan Cebu International Airport, where the incoming President opted to stay while waiting for his flight back to Davao City.
He said they talked for nearly two hours, or up to around 3 a.m., until Duterte boarded a private plane bound for Davao.
According to Sitoy, Duterte was grateful to the Cebuanos for the votes they gave him.
Duterte garnered 726,559 votes in Cebu province and 296,246 in Cebu City, or a total of 1,022,805 votes. He led by about half a million votes over his closest rival, Roxas.
But while there might be no formal political alliance yet between Duterte and Osmeña, the latter said he was pleased with the incoming President’s pronouncements to raise the reward for big time drug lords caught or slain in Cebu to P5.5 million (not P5 million as earlier reported), or P500,000 more than the bounty he earlier announced in Davao City.
Osmeña, interviewed over dyAB, even joked that he intended to ask from Duterte a refund of at least P200,000, the cash he had so far given out as reward to policemen who had arrested and killed suspected criminals and drug lords that operated in the city.
“But even if I do not get my refund, sige lang basta nalipay ko sa iyang (it’s OK because I am happy with his) announcement,” said Osmeña.
Cebu City Acting Mayor Margarita “Margot” Osmeña, Tomas’s wife, was also happy that Duterte added “two more zeroes” to the P50,000 reward that was offered by her husband for every slain criminal.
She also joked that policemen who could kill a drug lord might no longer collect from her husband since Duterte’s offer was bigger.
Margot is a staunch supporter of her husband’s tough anti-crime policy, including his offer of cash reward for every criminal killed by policemen.
“It’s not easy if somebody is looking for you. You’ll hide or get out. That’s what we wanted to do; (for drug lords) to get out,” she said
Asked for her message to drug lords operating in the city, Margot said: “Get lost.”
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