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Sunday, June 29, 2014
EX-CONGRESSMAN Tomas Osmeña bought a Sun.Star ad last week. This full page spread, displayed Osmeña, wife Margot and son Miguel, plus the letter from his physician at Anderson Cancer Center in Houston who had operated on his Stage 3 urinary bladder cancer. Seven cycles of chemotherapy followed. The doctor congratulated him for hurdling the five-year checkpoint.
“Why is citizen Tomas Osmeña bragging that he is now cancer-free?” Sun.Star columnist Bobby Nalzaro asked, “Because he wants Cebuanos to know that he is still physically fit to run for mayor in 2016?” Maybe.
We do share in the joy and relief that Osmeña and family feel. We know that from searing personal experience. It has been 17 years now, since our wife underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer. Those were 17 bonus years. And we give thanks to the Lord for every day added.
Indeed, “the angel of death has many eyes the Yiddish proverb says,” we wrote after Osmeña first flew to Texas. He was then smarting from thrashing in an election he assumed he’d never lose.
In March 2002, he collapsed while attending a wedding. After a two-month leave, Osmeña recovered to take back City Hall. “He looked into the angel of death’s eyes, as we all must one day and walked away,” we noted then. “We hope this brush with our common mortality produced a new sense of reality and a more compassionate mayor.”
It did not. Bruising brawls studded the in-between years. He threatened to dump collected garbage at the environment department and Integrated Bar offices and padlock GMA News. “You won’t sell (City Hall) airtime. I’ll close you,” Osmeña snapped. “Everybody is afraid of media. I’m not.”
Osmeña has quit smoking. But “firewater” isn’t an issue, he insists. “There’s no connection between drinking and cancer.” He no longer swills “the way I used to.” A soused city mayor, who’d stagger around town, was a perennial scandal then.
But this chatter misses the issue. Did looking into the angel of death’s many eyes, then striding off, remould Osmeña? Has he evolved into a public figure of enduring values, like President Sergio Osmeña?
In the city he lorded over, chronic hunger stunts 41 out of every 100 kids. Aquifers are “overdrawn” by 170,000 cubic meters daily, resulting in dry taps or brackish wells. Migrants double population rate increase over that of other provinces. Cebuanos grapple with deadlocked governance.
Some have roots in “Me Tarzan” decisions like Cebu’s imploding yen-loans. Abetted by a stamp pad City Council, Osmeña signed a P1.9-billion loan for South Reclamation Project, publicly denying any such deal. Serial devaluations sent IOUs to P6 billion plus. Loan repayments strap every man, woman and child, within city limits, with a debt burden of P60,654. Compare that to P44,548 for 97 million Filipinos.
Today’s policy vacuum is seen in the key directive to a BOPK controlled council: Scalp Mayor Mike Rama, no matter what the voters decided. The council would gag independent voices like Councilor Mary Ann de los Santos. Dili tawon mi sa-op ninyo Dong, she told Osmeña. “We are not your tenants, sonny.”
Osmeña drove a bogus police car at Jesse Robedro’s funeral. Cebuanos are bogged in policy gridlock on water shortages, flood control as sea levels surge, sewage disposal even disaster preparedness.
The BOPK council moved from subservience to servility, we noted then. We repeat: What will the councilors say when their turn comes to look into the angel of death’s multiple eyes?
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 29, 2014.