REMEMBERING NENE PIMENTEL: “It’s so difficult to be a Minority, but regardless, keep fighting”

(Eulogy delivered by Senator Risa Hontiveros at the necrological service for former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. at the Senate on 23 October 2019. Pimentel passed away on Sunday, October 20, at the age of 85).

Dear Ma’am Bing, Senator Koko, Commissioner Gwen, the whole Pimentel family, SP Tito, Ma’am Helen, mga kasama sa Senado ngayon at noon, dating Pangulong Erap.

Lahat po tayo ay nandito ngayon para parangalan ang minamahal nating Ka Nene.

When Jac Pimentel and I were batchmates in college during the last years of the Martial Law dictatorship, and his Manong Koko was a couple of years ahead of us, I didn’t know at first that the soft spoken brothers were sons of then-Mayor Nene Pimentel, one of our most respected opposition leaders from Mindanao.

He was one of the 14 people who earlier voted against the ratification of the 1973 Constitution. He was one of the LABAN slate, for whom many of us children of many families conducted a riotous noise barrage in 1978, in what was then called the Greater Manila Area – now our Metro Manila. Ilang beses siya nabilanggo dahil pinagtanggol niya ang demokrasya ng bansa noong panahon ng Martial Law.

In the 1980s, all together, we rallied against the Ninoy assassination, campaigned for Cory Aquino in the snap election, waged the civil disobedience campaign, and finally the Edsa People Power Revolution.

In 1991, the same year that he authored the game changing Local Government Code, Senator Nene Pimentel was one of the Magnificent 12 who voted against the renewal of the RP-US bases treaty as we rallied outside in the rain – a patriotic spirit we need to rekindle today against China in the West Philippine Sea. In 1992, my generation of former student activists, after a youth as Martial Law babies spent cultivating the attitude of boycott towards elections, in only the second time after campaigning for Cory Aquino, proudly campaigned for Senators Jovy Salonga & Nene Pimentel for President & Vice-President of our Republic. My former colleague in the Minority, former Senator Bam Aquino, has said that Nene Pimentel would have made a good President. I wholeheartedly agree.

When we were organizing Akbayan Party in the mid-1990s, Sen Nene Pimentel’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino or PDP was one of our inspirations as the first modern genuine ideological political party & as the advocate of genuine federalism with its requirements of decentralization & financial sustainability, not to mention sufficient time & process.

And even in these past two years, he remained one of our finest elder statesmen.

After all, more than our achievements, more than our personal glory, I believe, we are the things we protect. And Ka Nene, protected and defended our country. Wala pong bahid ng duda, ipinaglaban at minahal ni Ka Nene ang ating bayan.

In one of the last times I spoke with him, at the beginning of last year, Ka Nene, as I came to call him, said to me on the sidelines of a Senate hearing on Charter Change, “I’ve been there in the Senate before i, like you. It’s so difficult to be a Minority, but regardless, keep fighting.”

Ka Nene retained the ideals of his youth until his old age. He kept faith with us until the end. With his clear and steady gaze, his smiling mouth and his raspy voice, he showed his fatherly empathy & encouragement to us younger activists and politicians, especially in these times when we sorely need them to know that we are not alone and that we should hold the line.

Ka Nene, you told me to keep fighting. I promise you, I will; we will. I’m so proud to have known you, and will miss you very much. Daghang Salamat for everything. Palangga Kita. Mabuhi.