Wenceslao: Dino vs. Evasco?

Bong O. Wenceslao

PRESIDENTIAL Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino asking the National Bureau of investigation (NBI) and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to look into the activities of an unnamed “pro-Duterte” organization that allegedly include collecting fees from indigents is an interesting development, at least in my view. It looks to me like there is more to this than calls for a probe.

“There is this group claiming to be part of the administration. They will recruit some people and will let them pay a P200 to P300 membership fee so they cam avail themselves of housing and livelihood benefits from the government,” Dino was quoted as saying in a SunStar Cebu report.

The only pro-Duterte group in Cebu is the one that spearheaded the Lihok Suporta 2 rally at the Plaza Independencia last Saturday. The group, Kilusang Pagbabago, was organized in some barangays the past months and is said to be the brainchild of Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, who incidentally handles the anti-poverty programs of the government including housing projects.

The Saturday rally that the police said attracted around a thousand people (its organizers claim that the turnout was from 5,000 to 10,000) was attended by Evasco himself and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña. Either Dino wasn’t invited or he purposely did not attend the activity considering that he is not in good terms with Osmeña. But his absence was telling, as it was a pro-Duterte gathering.

Is Kilusang Pagbabago the group Dino was referring to? If so, it looks like his conflict with Osmeña is about to include Evasco also. The story I heard is that Osmeña, using some of the Evasco people in Cebu as bridge, already has a certain degree of success in getting decisions at the Cabinet level favorable to him because of his links with the Cabinet secretary. Meaning that he has neutralized Dino’s advantage (closeness to Duterte) by being cozy with Evasco.

Could this be what Dino was referring to when he called Osmeña as the real influence peddler. Consider this: “The true influence-peddler is him because he has been trying to connect to people in the Cabinet. Why will I become an influence-peddler when I already have influence? Please don’t be insecure,” Dino said.

If my observation is correct, then the next influence-peddling battleground between Dino and Osmeña-Evasco could be the appointment of a replacement for Nendell Hanz Abella at the Cebu City Council. Barug Team Rama seems confident that Renato Osmeña Jr. would be it because he is being nominated by the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), Abella’s party when he ran in 2016.

But we already know that Osmeña tried to outmaneuver Barug Team Rama by supposedly asking Sen. Manny Pacquiao to convince UNA president Jejomar Binay to nominate Rengelle Pelayo, who is identified with the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK). I understand that the lobby for Pelayo is not yet over. Could Dino, who is close to some Barug Team Rama stalwarts, lose in the maneuvering in the end?

We will soon know who has the bigger clout with the president, Dino or Osmeña through Evasco, once the president signs the appointment papers for the seat vacated by Abella.