CEBU CITY/ MANILA – Malacanang and the nation mourned as former senator John Henry “Sonny” Osmeña passed away last week, the second ex-senator to die in a week.
Senators, congressmen and other leaders, and Malacañang, through Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, offered condolences to the family of former senator Osmeña who passed away on Tuesday.
Panelo recalled the “colorful” life of Osmeña.
“Siya po’y naging senador, naging mayor din ng Cebu at siya po ay naging mayor din ng pa Toledo (He was a senator, he also became mayor of Cebu and mayor of Toledo),” he said.
Senators, with a heavy heart, honor the life and death of former Osmeña, who passed away in his condominium unit in Cebu City on February 2. His body was immediately cremated while the cause of his death was still being determined. He was 86.
In a fitting tribute, the Senate on Wednesday, February 3, 2021, passed Senate Resolution No. 635, in consideration of Senate Resolution No. 636, expressing “the profound sympathy and sincere condolences of the Senate” on the death of Osmeña, who served the Senate from 1971 to 1972, 1987 to 1995, and 1998 to 2004.
All senators present were made co-authors of the resolution.
“The demise of a great legislator and esteemed public servant, who had served as senator both under the 1935 and 1987 Constitution, is a great loss not only to his bereaved family but to the nation as well,” stated the resolution, which was authored by Sanate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro-tempore Ralph Recto, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Sen. Manuel “Lito” Lapid.
Osmeña’s death shocked senators as the country is still mourning for the death of another great lawmaker, the late Sen. Victor S. Ziga, who succumbed to heart and mutiple multi-organ failure at the age of 75 last January 31, 2021.
Both Osmeña and Ziga were members of the post-Marcos 8th Congress from 1987 to 1992.
In July 2020, Osmeña tested positive for COVID-19 but soon recovered. He was also diagnosed with stage 2 cancer after losing his reelection bid for the mayorship of Toledo City, Cebu.
Sotto, in his sponsorship speech, said Osmeña was born to lead, and “even mastered it along the way.”
“As a matter of fact, public service was his calling as he started to be in the government as such a young age and continued to be one until his passing,” Sotto said.
“Coming from a well-known political family, being the grandson of the late President Sergio Osmeña Sr. And a nephew of former Sen. Sergio Osmeña Jr., it could be surmised that a lot of pressure were put on him to be able to follow the footsteps of his grandfather, or leave a lasting legacy, like his ancestors did,” he said. “But certainly that was not the case for Sen. Sonny Osmeña. He made a name for himself. He was a great leader in his own right,” Sotto added.
He said the demise of a “true public servant” whose principles and achievements “are worth emulating but hard to duplicate.”
Zubiri described Osmeña as a “dedicated public servant and an advocate of sincere, competent and responsive governance.”
“So Mr President, we asked our dear colleagues and distinguished institution to accept this simple resolution, as well as for the family to accept our sincere condolences for the death of a great Visayan, Zubiri said.
Sen. Richard Gordon, who authored PSR 636, said Osmeña, as a senator was a “fierce debater and stood by his principles.”
“He also showed passion for the advancement of communications, technology and energy, sponsoring a number of development-oriented bills,” Gordon said.
As a senator, Osmeña served as Senate President Pro-Tempore (1996-2000), and as chairman of the Committees on Finance, Energy, and Government Corporation and Public Enterprises.
Osmeña, known as the “Lone Ranger” for his independent mindedness and taking fearless stance despite overwhelming odds, was a known graft-buster in the Senate. He founded and organized the “Samahan Laban sa Graft (SALAG)” and spearheaded the Senate investigations of many irregular and anomalous government transactions, including the so-called Petroscam, and those involving the Philippine Airlines and the Philippine Ports Authority, among others. His exposes have led to the resignation of corrupt government officials.
He was responsible for the creation of the Department of Energy (DOE), under Republic Act No. 7638, after his Senate Bill was signed into law by President Fidel V. Ramos in 1992.
Osmeña sponsored among others, a number of development-oriented bills like the Municipal Telephone Act (Republic Act 6849) whereby each municipality will a get a telephone system; the Mini-Hydroelectric Program (RA 7156), which will provide non-conventional electricity in the countryside; the Public Telecommunications Act of 1995 (RA 7925), and the creation of the Philippine Postal Corporation (RA 7354). He also authored landmark bills like the Electric Power Crisis Act (RA 7648) and the Electric Power Reform Act of 2001 (RA 9163), among others. (Jeanne Michael Penaranda)