Former Senate President Nene Pimentel dies at 85

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Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel jr., died in hospital, Senator Koko Pimentel confirmed. He was 85. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 20) — Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel jr., has died, Senator Koko Pimentel confirmed. He was 85.

"Our beloved Tatay Nene has joined our Creator at 5 am today Oct 20, 2019. We thank all those who have been a part of his life," said Koko Pimentel, the elder Pimentel's son.

Koko Pimentel said his father died of lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system.

"Tatay was sick [with] lymphoma which is a form of cancer. This already spread throughout his body," the Senator said. "In the end, it was the heart which gave up."

The elder Pimentel was Senate President from November 2000 to July 2001. He served in the upper chamber for three terms — 1987 to 1992, 1998 to 2004, 2004 to 2010 — also alternating between Senate Minority Floor Leader and Senate Majority Floor Leader from July 2001 to August 2002.

Pimentel was known as a stalwart of federalism. He filed a joint resolution establishing the federal system when he was senator during the 14th Congress. Last year, as a member of the Consultative Committee, he also argued for a plebiscite to decide on a federal constitution. Talks of a new federal charter were put on hold as the 18th Congress took form.

Pimentel was the founder of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino in 1982. In 1986, the party merged with Lakas ng Bayan, which was founded by the late former senator Benigno Aquino Jr.

Condolences pour in

Incumbent senators and other government officials aired their condolences to the family of Pimentel following the news of his demise.

Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo thanked the late Senator 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," the Palace said in a statement.

Vice President Leni Robredo said the country lost "one of its last statesmen" with Pimentel's passing.

"He was kind, a true gentleman, and principled amid many challenges we faced as a nation," Robredo said.

Senate President Tito Sotto, who served as Majority Leader during Pimentel’s stint as Senate President, lamented his death, saying Pimentel was his “idol.”

“I feel like I lost a close relative and not just a friend. I was his majority leader when he was Senate President and we were very close. He was my idol!,” Sotto said on Sunday.

Senator Miguel Zubiri, a fellow Mindanao native, also grieved the loss of his co-senator in the 14th Congress.

“The death of our former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr is a great loss for Mindanao and the Nation as he is one of those I consider as one of the great pillars of our country's democracy in the last 50 years,” the Senate Minority Leader said.

Opposition senators Kiko Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros also paid their respects.

“Sa ngalan ng aking pamilya sa pakikibaka, nagpapasalamat ako sa ibinahagi niyang buhay para sa karapatang pantao, kalayaan, at demokrasya noong panahon ng diktadura,” Pangilinan said.

Hontiveros said she will always remember Pimentel as a “fighter.”

Senator Richard Gordon lauded Pimentel for his experience in the executive and legislative departments and even during his retirement.

"He was committed to whatever causes he chose to advocate in his lifetime and persevered in pursuing them," said Gordon.

Senator Joel Villanueva regarded Pimentel's life as an example that civil servants must follow.

"Patunay ang buhay ng Tatay Nene na wala nang mas hihigit sa karangalang maglingkod sa bayan, " Villanueva said.

For Senator Panfilo Lacson, Pimentel played a vital role in his first time joining the Senate.

"Failing to understand the dirty play of politics, I can still vividly remember Sen Nene's advice - 'Ping, sagutin mo yung mga akusasyon ng administration. Marami nang naniniwala," Lacson shared.

In 2001, Lacson faced accusations of being "the biggest narco-politician, money launderer and criminal offender" when he became a newly-elected Senator, he said.

Senator Bong Go also bade his fellow Mindanaoan and PDP-Laban mate farewell.

"His death may leave us with a sad void and profound loss to his family and to our country he cared so much about," Go said.

Senators Sherwin Gatchalian and Sonny Angara also honored the late Pimentel for his landmark works.

"Tatay Nene Pimentel lived a passionate and fruitful life. He may have left us, but his legacy will always remain and be remembered," Gatchalian said.

"Senator Nene was the lawmaker’s lawmaker, both in intelligence to craft or critique laws and the discipline to consistently do it," said Angara.

As a senator, Pimentel made significant contributions to legislation such as The Local Government Code of 1991, The Generic Drugs Act, and An Act Creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The Consultative Committee, chaired by Chief Justice Reynato Puno, also praised their lost companion. The body tasked to review the 1987 Constitution vowed to push for Pimentel's vision of federalism for the Philippines.

"The best tribute we can give to Nene is to work hrder for federalism... his last advocacy for a better Philippines," Puno said in a statement.

The Communist Party of the Philippines offered their condolences to Pimentel's family as well, calling the late lawmaker a "friend of the revolution."

"The Filipino people and youth thank him for keeping alive memories of past struggles. His lifestory inspires the people in their present resistance to tyranny," it said.

He also engaged in massive protests in the 70’s and 80’s against the dictatorship of late President Ferdinand Marcos. Pimentel was ousted from his post as Cagayan De Oro City Mayor by Marcos. He was later reinstated in his mayoral post after the People Power demonstrations in 1982.

Foreign Affairs Chief Teddy Boy Locsin remembered Pimentel as "the face of martial law," He added, "His face best expressed what our country was going through while the idiot majority professed sexual ardor for the dictator."

Pimentel also assisted then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. in presiding over the impeachment trial of then President Joseph Estrada.