Former Senate president Nene Pimentel dies at 85

Rambo Talabong
Former Senate president Nene Pimentel dies at 85
(3rd UPDATE) Malacanang hails Pimentel as a “giant among his peers”

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Former Senate president and PDP-Laban founder Aquilino Pimentel Jr passed away on Sunday, October 20, his son Senator Koko Pimentel said.

“Our beloved Tatay Nene has joined his Creator at 5 am today Oct 20, 2019. We thank all those who have been a part of his life. We ask for prayers for the repose of Tatay Nene’s soul. Thank you to all,” Pimentel said in a statement. 

The late senator was 85 years old. (READ: Nene Pimentel: Courageous stalwart of democracy)

Days prior, he was confined to a hospital because he was “very ill.”

Pimentel said his father was “sick with lymphoma, which is a form of cancer.” The cancer had spread and “in the end, it was the heart which gave up,” Pimentel said.

The wake will start today at the Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig City.

Nene Pimentel will be remembered for his vigor in the political arena.

He was a staunch critic of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and was imprisoned for opposing the Martial Law.

Pimentel founded the PDP-Laban to oppose Marcos during the dictatorship. He served as the Senate president from 2000 to 2001.

‘Champion of democracy’

In a statement on Sunday morning, Malacañang declared that “today is a sad day for the nation”, highlighting Pimentel for his “long, fearless and principled track record of public service.”

“He would forever be etched in our history as a giant among his peers who championed democracy and electoral reform and a visionary who espoused devolution of powers and strong local governance,” Malacañang said.

The Palace expressed gratitude for Pimentel’s contribution to the Duterte administration’s federalism campaign, where the late senator sat as a member of the Consultative Committee.

Vice President Leni Robredo, in her statement, described Pimentel to be an exemplary “statesman” for holding his principles firmly even in the face of “cruel” times, just as in the Martial Law era.

“May we all draw inspiration from his example to show the same courage and principle during these challenging times,” Robredo said.

In a statement, the Consultative Committee to Review the 1987 Constitution said that “we, the members and staff of the Concom, are honored and privileged to have worked with him in the service of the nation.”

“It is no coincidence that Senator Pimentel began his career in government and his service to the nation as one of the young delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention – and capped it with a memorable stint as a member and vice chairman of the Consultative Committee that drafted the Bayanihan Federalism Constitution,” the ConCom said.

Former Vice President Jejomar Binay, who started the PDP-Laban party with Pimentel, also paid tribute. “Nene is a true patriot, whose years of service to the nation tells of profound love for Filipinos and a deep dedication to ensuring the growth and strengthening of our institutions towards a stronger democracy.”

An idolized legislator

Pimentel’s passing triggered an outpouring of sympathy from lawmakers. They expressed admiration for Pimentel, most of whom described the former Senate president as an “intellectual giant” that they looked up to because of his integrity and commitment to public service.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he felt like he “lost a close relative and not just a friend.” Sotto was majority leader when Pimentel was Senate President. “He was my idol! My 6 years with him from 1998 to 2004 were very educational for me not only in politics but also in family matters.”

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who also worked with Pimentel in the Senate for 9 years, called him “a true patriot, a freedom fighter, and a champion of democracy, human rights and local governance.” 

“Ka Nene fought for our country with honor and pride. His name will forever be remembered in the halls of Congress and by our grateful nation,” Drilon added.

Sa ngalan ng aking pamilya sa pakikibaka, nagpapasalamat ako sa ibinahagi niyang buhay para sa karapatang pantao, kalayaan, at demokrasya noong panahon ng diktadura (In the name of my family in protest, I thank him for the life he shared for human rights, freedom, and democracy during the time of the dictatorship),” Senator Francisco Pangilinan said in a statement.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said that he would always remember Pimentel for being the “Father of the Local Government Code.” Thanks to Pimentel, he said, “LGUs across the country by allowing them to create their own source of revenue and enable them to levy taxes and fees, among others.”

For House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman, Pimentel was “a great Mindanaoan” and “a good mentor” to all lawmakers. Pimentel hails from Cagayan de Oro, where he served as mayor for 4 years.

With his track record, House Majority Leader and Leyte Representative Martin Romualdez said Pimentel’s public service and brilliant leadership are “beyond question.” –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.