Former Gov. Emilio “Lito” Osmena formally met with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to personally ask him to seek the presidency.
Osmena personally made his request to Duterte in a one-on-one meeting late Saturday night on May 9 at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel.
“This is it. It’s about time to have a Cebuano or Visayan-speaking president who will free southern Philippines from imperial Manila,” Osmena was quoted in an interview with Cebu Daily News (CDN).
The same report said Osmena “fully supports” Duterte’s desire to adopt a federal form of government which seeks to decentralize and speed up the development of the countryside.
Osmena, who made unsuccessful bids first for the vice-presidency with Lakas under Pres. Fidel Ramos in 1992 and then for president under his own Promdi party in 1998, had long been advocating federalism.
Duterte in fact acknowledged that Osmena is one of three people who requested him to go around the country to keep the torch of federalism burning. The others are former Assemblyman Reuben Canoy and ex-Sen. Aquilino Pimental Jr.
Osmena said he fully supports Duterte in his advocacy for a federal form of government which will decentralize and speed up development of areas outside Metro Manila.
Emerging from the one-on-one meeting, Duterte expressed gratitude for Osmena’s vote of confidence but remained uncommitted to the presidency.
The 76-year-old Osmena sent tongues wagging recently when he transferred his place of registration from Cebu City to Balamban town.
CDN columnist Malou Guanzon wrote that apparently political observers don’t buy Osmena’s explanation that the transfer was mainly for convenience.
“Just the same, he neither confirmed nor denied speculations that he is running for Cebu governor or as mayor of Balamban town,” Guanzon noted.
A journalist from another paper who declined to be named said the possibility that Osmena will run to carry Duterte’s banner in Cebu is “very strong”.
Duterte’s Cebu roots is unquestioned considering that his father, the late Davao Gov. Vicente Duterte, once served as mayor of Danao City in Cebu.
The late Cebu City Mayor Ronald Duterte, son of former Mayor Ramon Duterte Sr., was a cousin of the Davao mayor.
The reporter said this could tilt the balance for Duterte in Cebu which is known to be clannish when election time comes. Duterte also counts among his relatives the politically-active Durano, Almendras and Patalinghug clans in Cebu which will be a potential headache to politicians who will support another candidate over a relative.
“If Lito O is forced to run to banner Duterte in Cebu, it will be an intriguing fight,” the reporter added.
Meanwhile, former Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmena showed up at Duterte’s media forum at the Adnama building Monday. Ex-Mayor Osmena, who does not exactly see eye-to-eye with the former governor, already expressed his support for the federal movement Duterte is pushing for.
The former mayor attended the first Mindanao federalism summit in Davao where he expressed his disappointments with the existing highly-centralized form of government.
“If the Osmenas rally as one behind Mayor Duterte in Cebu, he will be formidable candidate for president no matter how you look at it,” the reporter predicted.
But the possibility of political adversaries to forget differences, like those of the Pimentels, Zubiris and Canoys in Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro, to back up the presidential bid of Duterte and his Federalist agenda, might also happen in vote-rich Cebu.