Boast­ing of an­ces­tors

Sun.Star Cebu - - OPINION - JUAN L. MER­CADO (e-mail: juan_merca do77@ya­

TO for­get one's an­ces­tors is to be a brook with­out a source,” an old Chi­nese proverb cau­tions. Next Sun­day is the 132nd birthday an­niver­sary of the “Grand Old Man of Cebu”: Sergio Os­meña y Suico. The fourth pres­i­dent of the Philippine­s tow­ered among us.

Like other Filipinos, Ce­buanos have trun­cated mem­o­ries. Many of us have sketchy no­tions of a re­mark­able man who graced this frac­tious place.

Don Sergio grad­u­ated, in 1892, from Cole­gio de San Car­los. He placed sec­ond in the 1903 bar ex­am­i­na­tion. Af­ter serv­ing as gover­nor of Cebu, he was elected in 1907 to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. He was Speaker when he stepped down in 1922. For 13 years, he rep­re­sented the 10th Se­na­to­rial Dis­trict.

In be­tween, Os­meña founded the Cebu news­pa­per, El Nuevo Día. Cebu's jour­nal­ism his­tory was to be shared with the Sot­tos--Vi­cente and File­mon--to An­to­nio Abad Tormis, mur­dered in 1948.

One of Os­meña's finest mo­ments came in 1943. Time was run­ning out on the Philip­pine Gov­ern­ment-in-Wash­ing­ton ex­ile. The 1935 Con­sti­tu­tion man­dated that the term of the then crit­i­cally-ill pres­i­dent Manuel Que­zon would ex­pire on 30 De­cem­ber.

To cram a com­plex story within the 2,800 char­ac­ter-cap of this col­umn: Os­meña sug­gested: Ask the US Congress to sus­pend con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions for pres­i­den­tial suc­ces­sion un­til af­ter Philip­pine lib­er­a­tion.

That would en­sure unity in wartime, at the cost of Os­meña's own dreams. The US Se­nate ap­proved the plan by voice vote. It passed the Lower House by a vote of 181 to 107 on Nov. 10, 1943.

Os­meña re­stored the Com­mon­wealth gov­ern­ment. In the 1946, elec­tion, Os­meña re­fused to cam­paign, say­ing: Filipinos peo­ple knew of his record of 40 years of hon­est and faith­ful ser­vice. He lost to Manuel Roxas, who won 54 per­cent of the vote.

With­out ran­cor, Os­meña re­tired in Cebu. Some of us are old enough to re­mem­ber the slim, sil­ver-haired Don Sergio, tak­ing af­ter­noon walks at Fuente Os- meña--with­out body­guards. He died in Oc­to­ber 1961, aged 83.

Trib­utes will be paid to this gi­ant Sun­day. In Cebu City, that task usu­ally falls on the most vis­i­ble grand­son-pub­lic of­fi­cial: Rep. To­mas Os­meña. Did he ever won­der why peo­ple shrug his words aside?

Way sigaro sa po­long, con dili sa buhat makita,” the old Visayan proverb says. “Deeds are greater than words.” Can the con­gress­man, whose sole con­tri­bu­tion to the 15th Congress was a bill to ex­tend Christ­mas hol­i­days, add lus­ter to his an­ces­tor?

Take ex­e­cu­tions by vig­i­lantes. Os­meña cre­ated, in De­cem­ber 2004, a “Hunter's Team.” He of­fered a re­ward of 20,000 for ev­ery crim­i­nal “per­ma­nently dis­abled and neu­tral­ized.” A bounty of P10,000 would be paid to off-duty cops, if they elim­i­nated a rob­ber.

Deaths bolted to 41 by April 2005, US Am­bas­sador Fran­cis Ric­cia­r­done Jr. wrote. None was killed in hot pur­suit. Not a sin­gle case has been solved. The head­count piled up to 117 af­ter 12 months. Cebu's vig­i­lantes laid low when UN Spe­cial Rap­por­teur Philip Al­ston probed dis­ap­pear­ances. The press stopped it's head­count in late 2008. By then, the num­ber of those rubbed out crested at 183.

This list can go on from lump sums to 61 barangays iden­ti­fied as Bando Os­meña-Pun­dok Kauswa­gan's, to pre­sent­ing his im­pris­oned body­guard with a Cebu City Char­ter Day award.

The chal­lenge for To­mas Os­meña has al­ways been to live up to the ex­am­ple his grand­fa­ther set. As the Chi­nese proverb re­minds us: “Brain­less sons boast of their an­ces­tors.”

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