Friday, June 25, 2021

EXPLAINER: What these 2 Magsaysay awardees, 3 House deputy speakers have in common: all are Cebuanos, each set coming from one family.

CEBU. (From left) Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., scientist Romulo Davide, former Cebu representative Pablo Garcia, Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia and Cebu Representative Pablo John Garcia. (SunStar File)

LAST Sunday, December 20, Hilario G. Davide Jr., the retired 20th Supreme Court chief justice, turned 85. His brother Romulo Davide, scientist and a leader for farmers, is 86 and will be 87 on March 14 next year.

Their ages are not what Cebu is most proud of: among the numerous achievements of the two scions of the Davide clan in Colawin, Argao, Cebu is each brother's Ramon Magsaysay Award.

Jun Davide won his in 2002, for government service; Loloy Davide in 2012, for his work on pesticides, which greatly helped the farmers' lot.

The Magsaysay Awards' prestige is compared to the Nobel Prize ("the Nobel of Asia"). It is awarded annually to "perpetuate former Philippine president Ramon Magsaysay's example of integrity in governance, courageous service to the people, and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society."

WORK OF DAD, SISTER. Last Wednesday, December 16, the House of Representatives elected two more deputy speakers before it adjourned for the holiday break. It raised the number of deputy speakers to 32 but the two seats are new and no one was dislodged to accommodate them.

The "purge" brought about by change of leadership in the House -- Lord Allan Velasco replacing Alan Peter Cayetano last October 13 -- affected the positions of committee chairpersons and deputy speakers. Among the deputy speakers who have kept their post is Pablo John Garcia of Cebu's third district.

Representative PJ Garcia continues the work of his dad, Pablo P. Garcia, and his sister Gwen Garcia, both former members of the House and former deputy speakers: three deputy speakers from the same family.

RANK AND POWER. Deputy speakers are the second highest-ranking officials of the House. A deputy speaker presides over the House session whenever the speaker delegates the task. He may take part and vote in any of all the committees. He is believed to get more funds and perks for his office and his legislative work than the others. Thus, the scramble for the post among House members.

There used to be only six deputy speakers but in 2016, the House speakers started adding more, purportedly to prepare for federalism, until the number reached 32 last Wednesday.

Cebu is fortunate that the year will end with the province still represented by a Cebuano congressman as deputy speaker. Since 1987, when Congress was reconvened after the 1986 Edsa Resolution, Cebu has always had a deputy speaker in the House halls of power.

OTHER CEBUANOS who held the position of deputy speaker are few, only six since 1987:

[1] Antonio Cuenco (LDP), 1987-1992;

[2] Eduardo Gullas (Lamp), 1996-2000;

[3] Raul Del Mar (Lakas), 2001-2003, 2004-2007; (LP), 2007-2010

[4] Pablo P. Garcia (Lakas), 2007-2010; (NUP), 2010-2013

[5] Gwen Garcia (PDP-Laban), 2016-2019

[6] PJ Garcia (PDP-Laban), 2019 up to the present.

Del Mar had three terms or nine years and would've been elected to a fourth term under Velasco. The Cebu City north congressman died last November 16 at 79. Pablo Garcia had two terms. But only the Garcias have had three deputy speakers, with a family member holding the post continuously for the last 13 years.

OPOSA IS THIRD AWARDEE. Only three Cebuanos have so far received the Ramon Magsaysay Awards and two of them come from the same family: the Davides.

The third, Antonio Oposa Jr., a lawyer and environmental activist, was born in Manila but grew up in Cebu with his grandparents, partly in Bantayan Island.

Oposa won the RM award in 2009 for his advocacy for "enforcement of fishing and logging laws, environmental litigation, education on sustainable living, and advising local governments on environment-preserving legislation." Oposa declared in 1998 when he chose his line of legal work: "From here on, my clients will be the land, the air, and the waters." None of which can pay any fee.

$50,000 PRIZE MONEY. Junjun Davide was hailed by RM Awards as the "Philippines' champion of transparency and integrity, who enhanced the authority of the Supreme Court as the country's ultimate arbiter of justice." The citation of the award's board of trustees noted that Junjun was "the child of a mountain barrio in Cebu province" who "walked barefoot to school as a boy and worked his way" through UP Diliman. The board of trustees recognized Junjun's "life of principled citizenship in profound service to democracy and the rule of law."

Loloy Davide, as agricultural scientist, was hailed by the RM Awards board of trustees as the "Father of Plant Nematology" for his years of teaching and research on nematode pests that infest and damage agricultural crops. The only Filipino awardee in that year, under the un-categorized group, Loloy was recognized for his "steadfast passion in placing the power and discipline of science in the hands of Filipino farmers, who have consequently multiplied their yields, created productive farming communities and re-discovered the dignity of their labor."

An RM awardee delivers his speech, receives a certificate from the president of the Philippines, and gets prize money of $50,000 or about P2.409 million -- plus the prestige accorded and recognized throughout Asia.


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