Wenceslao: Party dynamics

Supporters of Vice Mayor Michael Rama obviously do not like Mayor Edgardo Labella’s balancing act following his announcement to go on leave for health reasons. He appointed Rama as acting mayor but wanted City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. to ensure the smooth functioning of the City Government bureaucracy. The mayor said he will continue to monitor the Cebu City Hall, meaning that Rama was told to do what acting mayors should do. He can’t effect major changes, like replacing Casas with somebody else. Rama should, therefore, work with Casas until the mayor reports back to his office.

I have heard stories about Casas, but until accusations against him are proven in the courts of law, I may have to retain my first impression of him. I met Casas for the first time during the campaign period in 2019. When I retired from my full-time job as opinion editor in SunStar Cebu, I told my superior then that I would be campaigning for a candidate. I was told not to write anything about the candidate in my column and I obliged. That candidate was then vice mayor Edgardo Labella, who ran for mayor against then mayor Tomas Osmeña.

It was in that campaign that I saw up close the realities of Philippine politics. For one, I realized how fragile unity is in traditional politics. Coming from an organization that practices democratic centralism, I was surprised at how a political party could be used to prop up an electoral campaign in name only. Rama’s and Labella’s political party existed in name only. Personality politics are, after all, the name of the game.

Rama had a base separate from that of Labella, and both came up with separate initiatives to win. A campaign machinery headed by former city councilor Joey Daluz straddled the two camps to provide a sort of coordination. I visited the Labella headquarters often but only saw Rama go inside there once during the campaign period.

Casas took the lead in that base. It was there that I first met him and noticed how much Labella depended on him. Casas was, I would say, like a brother to the then vice mayor. Remember that younger brother who stands silently while you berate him for a mistake made? That kind of a relationship does not exist often between two lawyers. Incidentally, both Casas and Labella are soft-spoken.

It was not surprising, then, that when Labella assumed his post after winning the race for mayor in 2019, one of his choices for city administrator was Casas. They have come a long way since they became law partners and City Hall functionaries. Their bond could not just be broken by mere intrigues and rumors.

That bond does not exist between Labella and Rama. Neither does it exist between Rama and Casas. For all the talk about legalities in the choice of acting mayor, that bond should be a factor, more important than the claim that Labella and Rama are partymates. In traditional or trapo politics, a party exists because of the personalities in it and not the other way around. A personality, can, after all, set up his or her own party if he or she wants to.