Photo credit: George Calvelo, ABS CBN News
Most people dedicate their whole lives giving their best to leave a lasting mark. The late Sen. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr. followed his heart despite unbelievable challenges and difficulties to be a protector of this country’s freedom and a servant to his fellow men.
“Tatay Nene”, as he was fondly called by family and those close to him, was a patriot and a freedom fighter. He fought the Marcos regime who he believed committed an “ultimate sin” to democracy when then President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law.
Being threatened and imprisoned four times didn’t stop him from fighting a corrupt government that he saw as one that only served the interests of the few, and not of the many.
Heart for public service
Having been raised by a local lawyer of Cagayan De Oro and a public school teacher of Ilocos Norte, Nene Pimentel had his mind shaped to a life of public service.
He graduated with a degree in law from Ateneo De Cagayan (now Xavier University) where his legacy started. When he became the Dean of the institution, he formed a group of lawyers who defended against what they called as “oppressive judges”.
Defender of the freedom of speech
He was a journalist who started as a cub reporter for Mindanao Star, then the leading weekly newspaper of the south. As a journalist, Mr. Pimentel adopted an open mind, understanding that the great power and freedom that goes with wielding a pen is a bigger responsibility.
He did not just protect freedom of speech; he also denounced the abuse of it.
In one of his writings, he called the attention of the press and media professionals and challenged them to be more vigilant and responsible in publishing news that many give credit to as facts.
Later on, he rose from the ranks and wrote for the Manila Times and other weekly columns for some publications.
Advocate of the local government
Nene Pimentel has always been celebrated as a local hero.
He was elected to the 1971 Constitutional Convention (Concon) as a representative of Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental. He was elected Mayor of Cagayan De Oro in 1980 and defeated a Marcos-funded opponent.
His position was threatened by the national government, but the people of Cagayan De Oro fought back through a people’s assembly that’s similar to what happened in the legendary EDSA revolution. His people spoke and got him reinstated.
He co-founded the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino in 1982 to ensure the representation of Visayas and Mindanao in the national government.
He became an assemblyman for his hometown at the Regular Batasang Pambansa in 1984 when the Aquino regime started.
He understood the power of local governments and how decentralizing and transforming local government units can be the key to unlock the nation’s progress.
His expertise in the local community conversations got him a post as a consultant for the current government in studying the implications of shifting from a democratic to a federal government.
As a senate president for three terms, a long time writer of books, and a principal author of some landmark laws, Nene Pimentel lived a life that ensured the protection of justice and democracy.
Even the freedom that we now enjoy as citizens of this nation may be partly owed to him.
Honored as a REX author
Nene Pimentel’s contribution to the development of the local government system is so significant that he was dubbed as the “Father of the Local Government Code”.
His mastery of the local government reflected on the way he authored the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act 7160), which aimed to “liberate provinces, cities, municipalities and barangay from over-dependence upon the central government by increasing their powers and share in the taxes and wealth of the nation.”
Rex Book Store partnered with him in publishing “The Barangay and the Local Government Code” in 1994. This publication is Nene Pimentel’s lasting mark for several generations of law students, lawyers, and lawmakers.
On the occasion of his passing, Rex joins the rest of the nation in honoring the great statesman in Nene Pimentel.