CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 20 October) — Residents eagerly await the arrival Wednesday of its most illustrious son, Aquilino Pimentel Jr., former Senate President and Cagayan de Oro Mayor from 1980-1984.
Kathryna Yu-Pimentel, wife of Senator Aqulino “Koko” Pimentel III announced via Facebook that the remains of the Pimentel patriarch, founder of the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino (PDP) and “Father of the Local Government Code,” will arrive in Cagayan de Oro on Wednesday afternoon.
She said there will be a public viewing immediately after arrival at the Cagayan de Oro City Hall, until October 25. From Cagayan de Oro, his remains will be brought back to Heritage Memorial Park in Taguig City.
Pimentel Jr., passed away early Sunday morning in a hospital in Metro Manila.
“For those who wish to pay their final respects, this is the schedule of the wake of our beloved Tatay Nene Pimentel,” she wrote.
The date of interment has yet to be announced.
Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno earlier requested the family of the late senator to bring him home so residents of this city and Mindanao can pay their last respects.
“The people of Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental would be especially honored to pay our last respects and to give a tribute to Senator Nene here in CDO, as I am sure that our neighbors here in Mindanao would also join us,” Moreno said.
The death of Pimentel on Sunday morning, saddened his townmates in this city and leaders of Mindanao as they remembered with gratitude his contribution to the country as a legislator who championed local governance.
Residents here remember how Pimentel, fondly called here as “Tatay Nene” suffered under the Marcos regime.
Every morning, residents would see him walk with his wife, Lourdes “Bing” Dela Llana to the Immaculate Conception Church of Xavier University from their residence along Archbishop Hayes Street in Cagayan de Oro City.
The short walk would have been ordinary except that two or three armed soldiers escorted the couple to church.
Going to mass every day was a concession from Marcos who had him jailed along with other opposition leaders when martial law was declared on Sept. 21, 1972.
Pimentel was jailed four times under martial law.
He served as mayor of this city from 1980 to 1984, and as Assemblyman representing Misamis Orientel at the Interim Batasanga Pambansa in 1984.
When Marcos was ousted by People Power in February 1986, then President Corazon Aquino appointed him Local Governments Minister.
He was elected and served in the Philippine Senate from 1987 to 1992 and for two terms from 1998 to 2004 and 2004 to 2010 where he authored the landmark RA 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991, devolving powers held by the national government to local government units.
In their Facebook reactions, Cagayan de Oro netizens expressed sadness over the passing of a well-loved townmate.
“Rest in peace Sen Tatay Nene Pimentel,” Jun Gregorio, a pianist of a local band, posted.
“We will fondly remember the good deeds he has shared with this city and the country,” Cagayan de Oro City Administrator Maria Dulce Tiro Pontentiano said.
“Thank you for service, Senator Nene,” businessman Marriz Agbon said.
Zia Alonto Adiong , a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, said the late Pimentel was instrumental in the realization of a regional government for the Bangsamoro people and fought hard for the devolution of powers to the local government units across the country.
“We owe to him the Local Government Code. Mindanao has just lost one of her cherished sons, “ Adiong said.
Adiong also remembered how as mayor of Cagayan de Oro, Pimentel welcomed the influx of Meranaws fleeing to the city when Marcos declared martial law.
Faced by sharp criticisms from some residents in the city, Adiong narrated Pimentel argued that Cagayan de Oro residents should not mistreat Meranaws and instead welcome them.
“In the latest survey, there are more than a thousand Meranaw families who are permanently residing in the city. Daghan salamat Sen. Nene Pimentel,” Adiong said.
Mindanao to the national consciousness
Rep. Frederick Siao of the lone district in Iligan City, said throughout his political career, Pimentel brought Mindanao issues to the front and center of the national consciousness.
“No other native of Mindanao, particularly Northern Mindanao, was both fierce and compassionate as Senator Aquilino ‘Nene’ Pimentel, Jr.,” Siao said.
In a statement, Local Governments Secretary Eduardo Ano said the entire Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) mourns Pimentel’s passing, describing him as “one of the country’s greatest political figures,” and together with President Rodrigo Duterte, “the country’s foremost advocate of a Federal system of government.”
Ano asked all LGUs to “remember him in your activities as we commemorate Local Government month” and urged them to “place your flags at half-mast as a sign of respect to this great advocate of local autonomy and empowerment.”
PDP Secretary General and Davao del Norte’s 1st District Rep. Pantaleon D. Alvarez described Pimentel as “the icon of democracy and a freedom fighter.”
“PDP-Laban is not what (it) is now, without his courage and determination to unite the political forces especially those from Mindanao to have a voice and be represented in the political capital,” he said.
“He will always be our inspiration, he was selfless and a father to every member of the party,” Alvarez said, adding he hopes the seed of Federalism that Pimentel sowed “will bear fruits with the able leadership” of his son, Koko.
“We are hoping that his death will be a reminder to each party member that service to the people is important, above political lines, that his sacrifices will become our source of strength to further foster the party towards a greater goal for the country,” Alvarez said.
South Cotabato Rep. and House Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez, said “We lost a great leader, one of the best leaders Mindanao ever produced.”
Hernandez added that Pimentel was an “epitome of a principled leader,” one of the pillars of freedom and democracy in the country who “never compromised his beliefs and principles.” (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews with reports from Bong Sarmiento and Carolyn O. Arguillas)