WITH the passing of Emilio Mario “Lito” Osmeña, the circle of living former Cebu governors dwindled to three—Pablo Paras Garcia, 95; Eduardo Rivera Gullas, 90; and Hilario Perez Davide III, 56.
The death of Osmeña, Cebu’s governor from 1988 to 1992, saddened local leaders who had served the public with him and witnessed Cebu’s progress under his administration.
One of the grieving politicians is Mandaue City Councilor Nerissa Soon-Ruiz, a member of the Cebu Provincial Board during Osmeña’s term who considered the late governor as her mentor.
“His bigger-than-life presence will be missed. We hope the Cebuanos will honor his legacy,” said Ruiz.
Osmeña, who succumbed to Covid-19 on July 19 at age 82, was considered the architect of “Ceboom,” the time in the 1990s when Cebu’s economy reached new heights with new infrastructure projects, including the Transcentral Highway, which traverses the mountains between Cebu City and Balamban town.
The grandson of President Sergio Osmeña Sr. was the first governor elected after the 1986 People Power Revolution. In the 1992 general elections, he did not seek a second term, opting instead to run for the vice presidency in tandem with Fidel V. Ramos, losing eventually to Joseph Estrada. He ran in the 1998 presidential elections under his own party Promdi (Probinsiya Muna Development Initiative), but he still lost the race to Estrada, an actor turned politician whose controversial presidency was cut short by the second Edsa Revolution in 2001.
Two other Osmeñas had also served as governors—President Osmeña and his son Sergio Jr.
Among the three living former governors, Gullas and Davide are still active in local politics, with Gullas as the incumbent representative of Cebu’s first district in the Lower House and Davide as the current vice governor.
Gullas had served as governor from 1976 to 1986 during the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos. Garcia was the third elected governor post-Edsa and he had served for three straight terms from 1995 to 2004. Davide had served as governor for two terms, from 2013 to 2019.
Incumbent Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia is former governor Garcia’s daughter.
She paid tribute to the late governor, saying Cebu has “lost a great man, a Cebuano who believed in and was proud to be a Sugbuanong Probinsyano.”
“Because of that, the word Promdi acquired a new meaning—that of excellence and the capability to achieve great things. Beyond all his remarkable accomplishments, I believe that Lito Osmeña’s greatest legacy will be to have made us all truly proud to be Cebuanos. For that, we, Cebuanos , will be eternally grateful,” she said.
Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes also sent his condolences to the Osmeña family.
“He was the architect of ‘Ceboom’ way back in the early 1990s and what Metro Cebu is today economically, may be credited to the foundations that he laid when he was governor. We are forever grateful for his contributions,” he said.
Also, Rep. Emmarie “Lolypop” Ouano-Dizon (Cebu, 6th district) also mourned the passing of “a public servant, a visionary leader, a true believer of local autonomy, and her personal mentor.”
She said Osmeña made the Cebuanos and “probinsyanos” proud.
Ruiz said Cebu would not be what it is today if not for the late governor and his grand plans sprouted the Transcentral Highway, Cebu Business Park, Cebu IT Park, among others.
Opened to the public in 2000 after 10 years of work, the Transcentral Highway is a 32.5-kilometer highway carved out of the mountains between Cebu City and Balamban town to cut travel time between Cebu’s east and west coasts from two hours to 45 minutes.
Work on the project started during Osmeña’s term as governor.
Also, it was Osmeña as a governor who sold the over 50-hectare provincial lot, then used as a golf course, to the Ayala Group, which converted the lot into the Cebu Business Park.
In the 1990s, the Province also entered into a joint venture with the Ayala Group to form Cebu Property Ventures and Development Corp., which developed the Asiatown IT Park, which was later renamed as Cebu IT Park. (KFD)