Opinion: Flyover frenzy, Election episode

Posted on November 12, 2012



by Malou Guanzon-Apalisok

The construction of two flyover projects in Cebu City proposed by Cebu north district Rep. Rachel “Cutie” del Mar will push through. The pronouncement of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas must have hit multi- sectoral groups opposed to the plan like a thunderbolt because after it got stuck in the Regional Development Council, everybody thought the project will be placed in the backburner. Now it can be told; the lull didn’t mean that Rep. Del Mar stopped lobbying for the implementation of the two flyovers.

The context of Secretary Roxas’ announcement, made during his visit to Cebu City last week wherein he underlined, as president of the administration Liberal Party ( LP), his support for Cebu south district Rep. Tommy Osmeña as candidate for Cebu City mayor, is interesting because he seems to suggest that the snags being posed by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama against the project will be undone in 2013.

As my favourite wag remarked, as if “tap os na ang boksing” referring to the mayoralty contest in which, following the impression that Secretary Mar Roxas created, Tommy is certain to go back to City Hall.

Rep. Cutie del Mar and her father, former congressman Raul del Mar are allies of Tommy’s Bando Osmena – Pundok Kauswagan orBO- PK, the local party that supported and delivered the votes for the Aquino- Roxas tandem in the last presidential elections. Secretary Roxas referred to this alliance when he justified the LP’s selection of Tommy as the party standard bearer, even if Mike was also a cardbearing LP member. The party decision pushed Mike against the wall, prompting him to move to the opposition United Nationalist Alliance.

The flyover projects would have been implemented in November last year for the reason that the budget had already been included in the Department of Public Works and Highways 2012 allocation. However, there was strong opposition from two religious congregations. One owns the property in Gorordo Avenue, site of the Shrine of the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Another runs a hospital. Together with businessmen and ecology advocates who banded together to form the Movement for a Livable Cebu ( MLC), they are the face of the anti- flyovers. MLC insists that the DPWH did not conduct any consultation or public hearing contrary to the manifesto signed by barangay captains and proflyover groups.

The strong opposition notwithstanding, the projects managed to stay on course. The DPWH prepared a traffic study, which according to reports was finished early this year. Still, the projects failed to get the endorsement of the Regional Development Council. The RDC seal is needed to guarantee the funding of the projects estimated at P430 million, although the cost could double because of road right of way acquisitions. But before the regional body could act on the proposal, it would need the assent of the Cebu City Development Council ( CCDC). The CCDC is under the authority of Mayor Rama who has adopted a hard line position against the flyovers.

Secretary Roxas did not figure in the tug of war between Rep. del Mar and the BO- PK on one hand and Mike Rama and the multi- sectoral group on the other, but as LP president, he knows what issues polarize Cebuanos.

The secretary who is seen as a major contender in the 2016 presidential elections has decided in favor of the project backed by powerful Cebu City politicians. In so doing, he has alienated the multi- sectoral groups who are against the flyover projects.

I don’t know if Secretary Roxas weighed the impact of his statement because it had the effect of defining the issues and drawing the line in the 2013 polls. The LP and allies in Cebu headed by the BO- PK are behind the flyovers, despite the lack of consensus from institutions and communities affected by the projects. You cannot get clearer or more straightforward than that.

The mayoralty race is shaping up to be a fierce political contest wherein the government machinery in the hands of the incumbent will be pitted against the influence of a political kingpin. This is very interesting because the incumbent has emerged as the underdog while the challenger has succeeded in depicting himself as the man to beat. It goes without saying that the challenge for Mike is to maximize his advantage and reduce his rival’s influence.

I think this is the reason Tommy’s supposed health issues are being highlighted nowadays. People familiar with local politics know that health issues crop up with regularity during elections. Tommy has issued a proper denial but politics is also a mental game. If barangay leaders doubt his staying power, would they still fear him? Would talks that Tommy’s bladder cancer recurred be enough reason for them to support Mike in 2013?

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