EDITORIAL - Now Osmeña is playing Rama in his hand

(The Freeman) - August 11, 2016 - 12:00am

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña always seems to outsmart former mayor Michael Rama. He did it during the last election, he did it again in connection with the inclusion of Rama in a list of people allegedly involved in illegal drugs that was read out in public recently by President Duterte. The mere inclusion of one's name in a drug list, and for that list to be read out by no less than the president, is crippling enough already for Rama without Osmeña having to give him an extra kick.

In a Facebook post, Osmeña publicly challenged Rama to take a lie detector test with him on the issue of involvement in illegal drugs. Osmeña is clearly still smarting from accusations made by Rama supporters during the campaign that he had connections with slain suspected drug lord Jaguar Diaz, a charge Osmeña has vehemently denied. With Rama now included in the Duterte list, Osmeña saw the opportunity to turn the tables on his political enemy.

The results of a drug test are not admissible as evidence in court. Therefore Osmeña knew there was little or no legal gain to be made in that direction. But Osmeña is a genius in political gimmickry and manipulation. He is a virtual spin master and he knew that by throwing the lie detector test gauntlet at Rama, there was no way he could emerge the loser.

Osmeña correctly anticipated that Rama was not going to take up the challenge. For whatever reason, Rama has shown an aversion to accepting dares from political opponents and this is not the first time he has said no. But Osmeña knew that by rejecting the challenge, the public perception of the rejection will be very negative, even if that very public knows fully well that the challenge does not mean anything if the results have no bearing in legal proceedings.

On the other hand, if Rama accepted the challenge, there is the chance - and it does not matter at all how slim or how robust the chance is - that Rama might fail. And that could mean the world for Osmeña, and the possible end of Rama, at least in the public eye. But if the results of the test are okay for Rama, that still would not remove him from the Duterte list. And Osmeña loses nothing, except perhaps the effort it took to needle Rama.

His election loss, he can blame on tough luck. His subsequent suspensions, he can blame on political persecution and retribution. But his inclusion in a drug list is a terrific bind for Rama. And the saddest cut of all is that he has only himself to blame. Before the list came, before even Duterte became president, there were already some subdued and low key talks about Rama that were very unflattering to him.

Why he never seemed to have lifted a finger to stem the talks, or at the very least manage them, comes as a big surprise to many people. Any spark can always break into a major conflagration, and what Rama once ignored has now come back and threatened to eat him up alive. And it does not help his cause that Osmeña is now in power and that, from the get-go, the man seems obsessed with going after him and his allies.

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