Senator who fought dictator and pushed power reforms dies

JOHN Henry R. Osmeña, a seasoned former senator who fought the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos in the 1970s, has died. He was 86.

He died at 2:45 pm on Tuesday inside his condominium in Cebu City and was immediately cremated, Ferliza C. Contratista, a former staff, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday, citing the lawmaker’s sister Annie Osmeña-Aboitiz.

Mr. Osmena authored landmark bills such as the Electric Power Crisis Act and the Build Operate Law. He was also responsible for the creation of the Department of Energy (DOE) in 1992 and pushed electricity reforms through a law that restructured the sector in 2001.

The lawmaker won a Senate seat in 1971, but his term was cut short after going into self-exile in the United States after the dictator declared martial law.

He was among the first to come home after Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., Mr. Marcos’s chief political nemesis, was assassinated in 1983.

Mr. Osmeña served as a senator again in 1987, 1992 and in 1998, and was elected congressman of Cebu in 1995. He was also the mayor of Toledo, Cebu City from 2013 to 2019.

He was known as the “Lone Ranger” for his independence and was called a graft-buster, according to his profile on the Senate website. He also opposed plans to extend the term of then President Fidel V. Ramos in the 1990s.

As the head of the Senate finance committee, Mr. Osmeña also exposed budget insertions that were often made by his peers at the House of Representatives. 

He was behind the Senate investigations of several major government and corporate transactions including those involving Philippine Airlines and the Philippine Ports Authority. His exposés led to the resignation of some corrupt government officials.

Senator Osmeña sponsored a number of development-oriented bills including one that mandated a telephone system in each municipality and another that provided nonconventional electricity in the countryside.

Mr. Osmeña was born on Jan. 17, 1935 to Emilio Osmeña and Ma. Louisa Renner. He earned a mechanical engineering degree from the University of San Carlos and continued his studies at the University of the Philippines (UP) and International Social Development Institution in Holland.

He is survived by his son John Gregory, sister Annie and brother Emilio. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

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