Tuesday, August 03, 2021

From the archive: 25 of Cebu's most influential people

(This article written by Mayette Q. Tabada was first published on November 9, 2007 as part of SunStar Cebu's 25th anniversary.)

LEADERS are not necessarily only those who look up. According to the Huainanzi, one of the most important works compiling ancient Taoist thought, one who leads people should have the ability to look down on a pail of water and like what he sees. This is because a leader’s destiny is not to accumulate wisdom, wealth, position, affluence and power for personal but passing gain. According to Thomas Cleary’s Lessons of the Chinese Masters, leaders are mirrors that reflect back to people the high thinking and benevolent deeds they can emulate and pass on to their brethren.

“When people are personally upright, others go along with them even though they are not commanded to do so; when people are not upright themselves, others will not follow them even if ordered to do so,” said Confucius.

SunStar Cebu reporters and editors selected 25 leaders deemed most influential in Cebu. Coinciding with the paper’s 25th anniversary in 2007, this Sterling List mixes the highborn and the humble, the native and the adopted, the thinkers and the doers, the low-key and the controversial.

Common to them though is leadership. Each of the 25 exemplifies this wisdom of the Huainanzi, “Those who gain the benefit of power have very little in the way of holdings and very much in the way of responsibility.”

A leader’s duty is not just to change the ephemeral—the fool, by non-doing, can achieve almost the same -- but to create a higher, timeless path of virtue, aspiration, vision.

According to the ancients, virtue exists when it is not only the material needs of the ruled that are met but other needs as well. In contemporary society, this translates to leaders’ transparency and accountability, consultation of and participation of the people in decisions affecting their welfare.

As it is with lists, responsibility, more than prestige, tips the balance for this sterling quarter. One must rise to leadership, the Huainanzi asserts.

“If the rope is short, it cannot be used to draw water from a deep well; if the vessel is small, it cannot be used to hold what is large -- they simply cannot handle the job.”

Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal

Archbishop of Cebu for 25 years, Ricardo J. Cardinal Vidal holds sway over the Catholic faithful, hundreds of thousands of them, who look to him for guidance. Not just priests and nuns, but businessmen and politicians, call on him, proving that his influence extends far beyond the religious to the political and economic.

This Marinduque-born father of the faith protects the Catholic Church, including the clergy, like a gentle shepherd, mediating in conflicts, staying calm at all times.

But amid scandal and tension, Vidal can be forceful. As Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines president, he signed the 1986 pastoral assailing the massive fraud during the snap elections called by then president Ferdinand Marcos.

Vidal has opposed proposals to legalize gambling and to manage population growth through artificial means. He has also condemned the summary killings in Cebu City, corruption in government, and proposals to carve three provinces out of Cebu.

Gwendolyn F. Garcia

The first woman governor of Cebu, Governor Gwendolyn Fiel Garcia controls a rich province, the leader among the country’s 79 provinces in assets, equity and cash in bank -- and debt free.

Deciding the fate of seven component cities and 44 municipalities just got easier after she gained reelection in May with a 461,000-vote lead over her rival (up sharply from the 7,000-vote margin in her first term) and all her allies made it to Congress, including her father, Pablo Garcia (Cebu, 2nd district) and brother Pablo John Garcia (Cebu, 3rd district), giving her power on legislation to benefit her constituents.

Practically all mayors in the Province have thrown their support behind her. And even Cebu City, which she does not control, she can shake. The Province is the largest landowner in the city.

She also helps set the direction for Central Visayas as chairperson of both the Regional Development Council 7 and the Regional Peace and Order Council.

Joseph “Ace” H. Durano

The then 34-year-old was lambasted as a greenhorn when he was named secretary of the Department of Tourism in 2004, the youngest Cabinet member of the Arroyo Administration.

But Joseph “Ace” Durano, whose third term as congressman of the fifth congressional district of Cebu was interrupted by the tourism appointment, has since broken record after record of tourism arrivals, bringing 2.84 million foreign tourists to the country in 2006, natural calamities and travel advisories notwithstanding.

From 2004-2006, visitor arrivals to the Philippines grew an average of 14 percent, surpassing the projected seven percent increase of tourist traffic in the Asia-Pacific region by the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed Durano development champion of the Central Philippines Super Region in 2006 to monitor the implementation of infrastructure projects and promote the area for tourism investments, there were no more critics.

Cerge M. Remonde

As director general of the Presidential Management Staff, Cerge M. Remonde steers the activities of Malacañang and President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He also oversees flagship projects and the conduct of his peers in the Cabinet. As Cabinet officer for regional development for the Visayas, he also brings the concerns of Cebuanos to Arroyo, and mediates in feuds or helps solve problems brought to her attention.

Remonde first made a name for himself as a newspaper columnist and broadcaster. As national chairman of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, he sought the lifting of the political ad ban and supported the founding of a fund to help media men who fall victim to violence in the course of their work.

Since his appointments as press undersecretary in 2001 and head of the Government Media Group in 2004, Remonde has discovered what it is like to be in the hot seat as the recipient of media reports critical of the Arroyo government. The reversal of roles has prompted him to ask journalists to dispense with sensationalism and focus on the truth.

Eduardo R. Gullas

He filed the bills that turned Talisay, Carcar and Naga towns into cities. Last May, Rep. Eduardo Gullas (Cebu, 1st district) further cemented his hol on the first district after all the mayoral candidates he supported in the elections won.

In his 38-year political career, the six-time congressman has been governor of Cebu, deputy speaker and majority floor leader of the House of Representatives, member of the seven-man policy-making body of then president Ferdinand Marcos’ government, deputy presiding chairman of the precursor of the unicameral Batasang Pambansa, and mayor of Talisay City.

As chairman of the Regional Development Council in Central Visayas from 1976 to 1986, he oversaw the planning of the South Road Properties, South Coastal Road and the second Mandaue-Mactan bridge.

This year, his bill to protect Cebu’s water supply became law. Gullas, also president of the University of the Visayas, has proposed the use of English as the medium of instruction in schools.

Jon Ramon Aboitiz

At the helm of one of Asia’s most successful family-run businesses, Jon Ramon Aboitiz steers the fate of a conglomerate and an economy. The president and chief executive officer of Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. and Aboitiz and Co. oversees an industrial empire composed of some 60 companies. Power generation and distribution (Aboitiz Power Corp. and Visayan Electric Co.), transport and logistics (2Go and Aboitiz Transport System), financial services (UnionBank of the Philippines and City Savings Bank), food production (Pilmico Foods Corp.), real estate development and construction (Aboitizland and Gorones) and ship building (Tsuneishi Heavy Industries Inc. and FBMA Marine Inc.) are among the conglomerate’s key interests.

For all its success, the Aboitiz Group has not misplaced its heart. The Aboitiz Group Foundation Inc. and Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., of which Jon Ramon is chairman and vice president, respectively, undertake povert alleviation, youth leadership, and health and education initiatives in various parts of the country.

Democrito T. Mendoza

It has often been an epic battle to raise awareness of and uphold the rights of the working class. But Democrito T. Mendoza has been doing this for more than 50 years.

The president of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and national president of the Associated Labor Unions-TUCP credits the advocacy of organized labor in part for the gains workers now enjoy: a codified Labor Code, retirement and housing security through the Socia Security System and the Pag-ibig Fund, and protection in terms of minimum wages through the wage boards.

ALU-TUCP, the largest labor group in the country, uses its radio station, dyLA, to broadcast and promote its causes in the Visayas and Mindanao, flexing its muscle in actions like demanding wage hikes and endorsing candidates during elections.

Mendoza is also chairman of the Oriental Port and Allied Services Corp., the exclusive cargo handling service provider at the Cebu International Port.

Augusto W. Go

He does not like delegating work to others. So whether in education, health, real estate, power, transport, financial services or running a city, lawyer and entrepreneur Augusto W. Go knows what is going on.

The president of the University of Cebu, one of the country’s largest universities with an enrollment of more than 42,000 students in four campuses, is also chairman of the board of Aspac Rural Bank Inc., Cebu Central Realty Corp. (Elizabeth Mall), Cebu Coliseum Complex Inc., Metro Ferry Inc., Visayan Surety and Insurance Corp., Skyliner Services Corp. and Toyota Cebu City Inc.; and director of Salcon Power Corp., Hyundai Cebu Inc., Chong Hua Hospital/Asociacion Benevola de Cebu and East West Banking Corp.

Crossovers become the man, his private sector pursuits running parallel with his duties as Cebu City vice mayor in 1987 and honorary consul general to the Republic of Korea in Cebu since 2003.

Raul V. del Mar

The 40 laws he principally authored benefiting barangays, teachers, the journalists, criminal justice youth, veterans, and the anti-drug campaign, among others, have kept Rep. Raul V. del Mar (Cebu City, North district) busy during his six terms as congressman.

He created the charters of the Cebu Port Authority and the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority that gave the local gateways greater control over their financial resources. He now hopes to create two new districts in Cebu City to double the Congressional allocation of the city and enable it to fund more projects and services.

When not conjuring up measures to ensure adequate infrastructure or boost income and employment in Cebu, Del Mar looks beyond his constituency when he presides over sessions in Congress as House deputy speaker for the Visayas.

His smooth reelection as deputy speaker last July, amid a vicious fight over the top post, the House speakership, showed his peers’ approval of his gavel-wielding skills.

Jose R. Gullas

Profit and the public good can be twins. Vice president and vice president for finance of the family-owned University, Jose “Dodong” R. Gullas is executive of the Visayas, which pioneered night classes for working students in Cebu City in the 1940s and the “Study Now, Pay Later Plan” that has enabled countless people to get an education.

Gullas stepped up reform in the educational system when, during his single term as congressman of Cebu’s first district, he decentralized the payroll system in public elementary schools, ending the problem of the delayed release of salaries and earning the gratitude of teachers nationwide.

But shaping minds aside, shaping views was just as appealing.

In 1965, believing that an informed citizenry was the bedrock of democracy, Gullas revived a newspaper started by his uncle in 1919, The Freeman, which he now serves as chairman of the board.

Francis O. Monera

Ayala Land Inc. (ALI), the country’s largest property developer, has invested close to P8 billion in Cebu. As vice president, it is Francis O. Monera’s job to take care of those investments.

Monera is also president of ALI affiliate Cebu Holdings Inc. (CHI) -- owner of the Cebu Business Park and of P1 billion in revenues last year -- and CHI unit Cebu Property Ventures and Development Corp. (CPVDC), developer of Asiatown IT Park, locus of the city’s business process outsourcing and information technology firms -- and dreams.

Since 2006, Monera has also been president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (CCCI) 700 members, which include sectoral associations. CCCI has been cited as a model for other business support groups in the country for its tireless promotion of entrepreneurship and investment.

No fence sitter, the CCCI has pitched solutions for Cebu’s power, water and traffic problems. The group is behind the proposal to turn the entire Cebu into an economic zone to cut business costs and spur investment.

Fr. Francisco G. Silva

Together with then Philippine Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez, Fr. Francisco G. Silva was a pioneer in rural electrification in the 1960s. Credited with the success of Cebu Electric Cooperatives (Cebeco) 1, 2 and 3, which he served as general manager, he was drafted by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001 to replicate Cebeco’s formula of low systems losses, high revenue collection and high profits in the other electric cooperatives in the country as administrator of the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

At NEA, he engineered a turnaround in the agency’s finances, reversing the P5.6-billion loss it had incurred in 2003 by breaking even in 2004.

In 2004, the Carcar native, also a former Metropolitan Cebu Water District manager, became a Cabinet secretary when he was made presidential adviser on rural electrification with oversight over the NEA and the 119 electric cooperatives nationwide.

Under his watch, the country has achieved 95.35 percent barangay-level electrification, from 80 percent in 2001.

Jesus B. Garcia Jr.

He made community publishing respectable and profitable. The entry of SunStar Cebu in 1982 marked the end of newspapers in urban centers outside Manila and the countryside running on antiquated presses and underpaid and under-trained journalists.

Jesus B. Garcia Jr., president of SunStar Publications Network, went on to develop the only network of regional newspapers in the country, start a news exchange, bring it online; and expand markets and reach with the birth of the Cebu Yearbook and Weekend magazines. He has also championed the preservation of the Bisaya language through the tabloid SunStar Superbalita and romance novel series SunStar Super Nobela.

Publishing aside, Garcia has also left his imprint on a nation whose transportation and communications industries he deregulated as Cabinet secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication during the Ramos years.

Pablito “Bobby” G. Nalzaro

The bane of erring public officials, institutions and other persons in high places, Pablito Galeza Nalzaro keeps his audience in thrall -- in print, on radio and TV -- that booming voice crying out for justice for the oppressed and victims of abuse, exposing graft and corruption, while helping the needy.

A multi-awarded tri-media personality, he is a columnist for SunStar Cebu and Superbalita (Cebu), and anchor for GMA-7 Cebu’s Balitang Bisdak and radio dySS Cebu, where he is also program director and chief operations officer.

After 27 years in broadcasting, Nalzaro has been sued, mauled, and threatened with a gun and jail time after displeasing politicians, businessmen and judges alike. But all these, he chalks up to “professional hazards.” The stinging commentaries continue.

Leo A. Lastimosa

After 23 years in the field, Leo A. Lastimosa is considered one of the pillars of broadcasting. Radio program Arangkada at dyAB, where he is also station Exposing corruption and society’s ills over his morning manager, has earned him a fan base that hangs on his every word. Not everyone is pleased, though, and he must contend with libel suits, the most recent ones from no less than the governor of Cebu.

Lastimosa is also co-anchor of ABS-CBN’s TV Patrol Central Visayas, a columnist for The Freeman, and executive vice chairman of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas-Cebu Chapter.

At just 42 years old, Lastimosa has reaped honors at the KBP Golden Dove Awards and been installed in the Hall of Fame for the radio news category and radio commentary category of the Cebu Archdiocesan Mass Media Awards.

Last year, he received the Eduardo R. Gullas Lifetime Achievement Award, the fulfillment of a childhood dream.

Teresa B. Fernandez

Activist Teresa B. Fernandez is executive director of Lihok Pilipina Foundation Inc., which advocated the creation of the women’s commission and the implementation of the Gender Budget in government agencies.

Lihok offers credit aid and livelihood programs, and started Bantay Banay, a community-based approach to violence against women and children that has been replicated in 65 cities and towns nationwide. Last year, Lihok called for the inclusion of women’s rights in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals.

In governance, Lihok started the monitoring of the City Government’s performance using the report card tool. Last year, it tracked Central Visayas compliance with the law to speed up government transactions.

Fernandez is also Cebu City Women’s and Family Affairs Commission executive director and a three-time Regional Development Council 7 social development committee chairperson. She set up the precursor of Cebu City’s Department for the Welfare of the Urban Poor, advocating a community mortgage program for the poor.

Felisa U. Etemadi

She has taught the Cebu City Government a thing or two about Local Development Fund budgeting, while encouraging nongovernment organizations to be more active in helping set the spending priorities of City Hall.

A multi-awarded educator and researcher, Felisa U. Etemadi, a professor at the University of the Philippines in the Visayas Cebu College, has conducted studies on local governance, Cebu’s economic growth, the environment, watershed management and poverty that have proven useful to policy makers, and brought the issues of women, children and marginalized groups to light.

Cited as one of The Asia 500 Leaders for the New Century in 2000, Etemadi is a consultant to the United Nations Development Program, United Nations Children’s Fund, Ford Foundation, Asian Development Bank and German Development Cooperation.

In 2006, a poverty map she made identifying the areas in Cebu City that urgently need help with housing, health, education and other basic needs was adopted in a Cebu City Development Council resolution “as the mayor’s reference in prioritizing projects.”

Ronald Roderos

Whether he chooses to be funny or serious, the police general commands attention. His policies and leadership shape the overall performance of the police force in Central Visayas.

With the bulk of the country’s tourists trooping to the region, Chief Supt. Ronald Roderos, director of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 and a United Nations peace medal awardee, is responsible for their safety, as well as that of the locals, who are watching his every move.

Having served in the region for the last seven years -- as PRO 7 chief of staff, deputy regional director for operations and deputy regional director for administration, among other roles -- Roderos has shown the public that he works hard, starting his day before 6 a.m. and going home at around 9 p.m.

His challenge is to make his mark, following the successful stints of predecessors like Chief Supt. Silverio Alarcio Jr. and Philippine National Police Chief Avelino Razon Jr.

Winston F. Garcia

Since his appointment in 2001, Winston F. Garcia, president and general manager of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), has been met with controversy at every turn -- by his own employees, GSIS members, politicians, even other government institutions.

A lawyer and former Provincial Board member, Garcia said almost all of his more than 100 computerization and modernization initiatives, which included defeating the syndicates that had been producing fake members and fake claims to skim money off the Fund, were challenged after they brought temporary delays in the release of loans and pensions.

But today, his legacy of simplified applications for benefit claims, loan processing in minutes, lower interest rates for housing loans, easier access to the GSIS through the Internet and mobile phone, and a record net income of P40 billion, making it the most profitable government-owned and -controlled corporation in the financial sector for 2006, should be enough to give critics pause.

Potenciano V. Larrazabal Jr.

If health is the first of all liberties, then freedom came with the help of Dr. Potenciano V. Larrazabal Jr., president and medical director of Cebu Doctors’ Hospital.

That first hospital, which opened in 1972, has since become the flagship of a chain of hospitals now serving the infirm even outside of Cebu City.

Mactan Doctors’ Hospital serves Lapu-Lapu City and the island of Mactan. North General Hospital serves Talamban, Mandaue City and northern Cebu. South General Hospital in Naga City serves the southern sector of Cebu, while San Carlos Hospital tends to the sick in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental.

For indigents and the underserved members of these communities,

Larrazabal reveals a long-standing charity program that has cost the medical group up to P4.5 million a month.

Larrazabal also founded Cebu Doctors’ University, of which he is president. The school has been a steady source of top-quality doctors for deployment both locally and abroad.

Tomas Osmeña

He fled the country during martial law and for almost 15 years stayed in the US working as a realtor, among other jobs. Back in Cebu City in 1987, he ran for and won the mayor’s seat in 1988, benefiting from political capital left by his late father, Serging, kingpin and icon.

He was mayor for two terms but sat out the 1998 race.

In 2001, he ran again and won with a thin margin over former ally, mayor Alvin Garcia.

In the last two polls, 2004 and 2007, he was reelected with much bigger vote leads that totally shut out opposition bets from the City Council.

Mayor Osmeña wields influence and power by bullying people and interest groups, although abrasive and scary tactics have worked with reluctant taxpayers, erring employees, and the docile City Council.

He has often engaged in what may appear as wasteful disputes, an unorthodox style that is explained in a quote sourced to the mayor: “There’s method in my madness.”

After his third term, he may want to keep some authority in troubled South Road Properties, which shows loads of promise even as it hugely afflicts city finances.

Norberto B. Quisumbing

Industrialist Norberto B. Quisumbing Jr. has enabled the average Filipino to own a vehicle. From 1962, he produced motorcycles, invented the tricycle, created affordable four-wheel vehicles like the Multicab, and provided financing to buyers.

Today, he chairs the Norkis Group of Companies, which has some 30 firms in its fold, among them Norkis Trading Co. Inc. (NTC), Porta Coeli Industrial Company Inc., Eagle Financial Services Group Inc., Age of Travel Inc. and Evergreen Community Services Inc.

The top taxpayer of the Bureau of Customs Port of Cebu, NTC alone paid nearly P300 million a year in duties and taxes in the last six years. The Norkis Group has 700 branches, accredited display centers and franchised dealers nationwide.

To indulge his altruistic side, Quisumbing also founded Filipino Inc., recognizing the achievements of Filipinos usually of humble origin, and co-founded Cebu Inc., an informal think tank of business and civic leaders for the development of the province.

Virginia Palanca-Santiago

She finished her pre-law degree in philosophy Cum Laude and was second in her class at the Ateneo de Manila Law School. But instead of capitalizing on such distinctions to get ahead through a lucrative legal practice, she opted for government service.

Eleven years of fighting so that people could have their own land at the Department of Agrarian Reform (1972-1983), followed by 13 years dealing with criminals as a prosecutor at the City Fiscal’s Office (1983-1996), and now another 11 years (and counting) of dealing with erring public officials at the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas, one can be sure that Virginia Palanca-Santiago can walk the walk and not merely talk the talk.

As the head of the Public Assistance and Corruption Prevention Unit, Director Santiago goes all around the Eastern, Western and Central Visayas giving anti-corruption seminars and corruption prevention lectures. And when nobody takes heed, she leads fact-finding investigations that lead to indictments, dismissals from government service an imprisonment.

Carmelo Valmoria

Be it dodging bullets or insults, Senior Supt. Carmelo Valmoria knows his calmness is his best weapon. As superiors and some observers hailed him for maintaining his composure in the midst of a chaotic post-election situation in Bogo City last July, Valmoria quietly accepted compliments and ignored the criticisms.

His stint as a United Nations peacekeeper in Cambodia, Somalia and Kosovo, and his experiences in battling communist rebels throughout the Philippines have prepared him for the challenges of keeping a premier province safe.

His meticulousness in approaching problems earned for him a national award for best investigator in 1998, an award he considers one of his greatest achievements.

Before he was appointed Cebu Provincial Police Office Director, Valmoria took part in the security arrangements for the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit as chief of the Regional Operations and Plans Division.

Patrocinio Comendador

Considered the “hot seat” of all police offices is the Cebu City Police Office, so a Cebu City police director is always in the limelight, whether it’s answering the public’s call to solve vigilante-style killings or assuring the citizens that his police force is still in control of a crime-ridden city.

Senior Supt. Patrocinio Comendador has managed to keep his cool, despite pressure to solve vigilante-style and gang-related killings and robberies, manage an office with a few hard-headed subordinates and meager resources, and answer to an inquisitive media that watches him like a hawk.

His willingness to work and solve problems has earned him the respect of his personnel. (SunStar Cebu)


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