Multiple eyes

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

THE angel of death has many eyes.” This Yiddish proverb came to mind when ex-Rep. Tomas Osmeña flew to Texas. He still smarted from trashing in an election he never thought he’d lose. Accompanied by wife Councilor Margarita Osmeña and son, he underwent tests at Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

In October 2008, doctors stumbled across a cancerous mass, the “size of a chicken egg,” in Osmeña’s bladder. A second biopsy confirmed Stage 3 urinary bladder cancer. Seven cycles of aggressive chemotherapy followed after surgery.

This followed life-threatening illness in 2002, in which Osmeña recovered to take over 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.” Me Tarzan?

Like many Cebuanos, we wish him well in today’s follow up to his October 2012 checkup. That showed “no tomographic evidence of metastatic disease.” Osmeña has been cancer-free, a Cebu doctor explained. “It can still recur. But after five years, the possibility of that happening is less likely.”

From experience, we know the relief. It’s been 17 years since our wife underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation for breast cancer. Those were 17 bonus years and we give thanks.

Osmeña 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, remold Osmeña? Has he evolved into a public figure of enduring values?

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. The dollar fetched P26 then.

Serial devaluations sent IOUs soaring 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 93 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.”

Cebuanos can expect policy gridlock on water shortages, chaotic peri-urban areas, land use, flood control as sea levels surge, sewage disposal even disaster preparedness.

The BOPK council moved from subservience to servility. And what will councilors say when their turn comes to look into the angel of death’s multiple eyes?


Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 21, 2013.


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