Philippine politicians

Former senator Sonny Osmeña dies

Ryan Macasero

SONNY OSMEÑA. Former senator Sonny Osmeña was known as the 'Lone Ranger' during his Senate days because of his fight against graft and corruption in government.

Screengrab from Toledo City video

(4TH UPDATE) Sonny Osmeña was known as the 'Lone Ranger' in the Senate because of his fight against graft and corruption in the government. He was 86.

Former senator John Henry “Sonny” Osmeña, died on Tuesday, February 2, his sister Annie Osmeña-Aboitiz confirmed in a statement late Tuesday evening. He was 86.

“Senator John Henry Osmena passed away at 2:45 pm this afternoon at Maryville Condominium and was immediately cremated,” Osmeña-Aboitiz said.

She said his wake will be done via Zoom and would be announced soon.

Osmeña was admitted for COVID-19 in July, but recovered and was released from the hospital on July 9.

The former senator celebrated his 86th birthday on January 17.

Osmeña was known as the “Lone Ranger” during his Senate days because of his advocacy against graft and corruption in government. He authored the bill that paved the way for the creation of the Department of Energy in 1992 (Republic Act No. 7638), and landmark measures such as RA 7648 or the Electric Power Crisis Act of 1993, and RA 7718 or the Build Operate Law.

Osmeña is the grandson of the late president Sergio Osmeña. He is the brother of former Cebu governor Emilio “Lito” Osmeña, and cousin of former senator Sergio Osmeña III and Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña.

Osmeña was among the political figures who were hurt in the 1971 Plaza Miranda bombing – the attack happened during the miting de avance of the Liberal Party where he was among the party’s senatorial candidates. He won a seat in the Senate but served only until 1972 as he went on exile immediately after then president Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law.

Osmeña returned to the Philippines in 1983, after the assassination of former Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr, to lend a hand in fighting the Marcos dictatorship.

Osmeña most recently served two terms as mayor of Toledo, a city on the western side of Cebu. Osmeña was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer in July after losing his reelection bid for the mayorship of Toledo.


Senate President Vicente Sotto III paid tribute to Osmeña in a statement sent to the media.

“Senator Sonny was a very astute and savvy legislator. I am honored to have worked with him in the 9th and 10th Congress. He was a Cebuano legislator par excellence!” Sotto said.

The Senate on Wednesday passed Senate Resolution No. 635, in consideration of Senate Resolution No. 636, expressing “the profound sympathy and sincere condolences of the Senate” over the death of Osmeña, who served the Senate from 1971 to 1972, 1987 to 1995, and 1998 to 2004.

In his sponsorship speech, Sotto said that Osmeña was born to lead as he came from a family of leaders led by his grandfather, but “he was a great leader in his own right.”

Zubiri described Osmeña as a “dedicated public servant and an advocate of sincere, competent and responsive governance.”

Senator Richard Gordon, who authored PSR 636, said Osmeña was a “fierce debater and stood by his principles” when he was in the Senate.

“He also showed passion for the advancement of communications, technology and energy, sponsoring a number of development-oriented bills,” Gordon said.

Osmeña died two days after the death of another former senator, Victor Ziga. Ziga died of heart and mutiple multi-organ failure at the age of 75 on January 31.

The Senate flew the Philippine flag at half-mast on Wednesday to mourn Osmeña’s death. –

(Editor’s note: A previous version of this story referred to Annie as the wife of Osmeña. This has been corrected.)

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Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.