LAGUINDINGAN AIRPORT, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 23 Oct) – The late Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. has finally arrived home in Cagayan de Oro City where his struggle for freedom and democracy started more than 40 years ago.
The Philippine Air Force C-295 twin-prop plane bearing the white casket of the late senator touched down around 5 p.m. as the sun set in the Laguindingan tarmac.
An Army Honor Battalion performed arrival rites as the white casket bearing the remains of Senator Pimentel was lowered from the plane.
Local officials led by Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno followed the Army honor guard carrying the casket to the waiting black hearse, which then motored to Cagayan de Oro, some 34 kms away.
Most of these officials were there with Pimentel when he, along with other leading opposition leaders, were detained by ousted President Ferdinand Marcos.
Pimentel was jailed four times during the Martial Law period.
Cagayan de Oro Councilor Edgar Cabanlas recalled how, as a young law student, he followed Pimentel to the mountains in Misamis Oriental to meet the communist rebels.
Cabanlas said it was those times in between the jails and when Pimentel was at liberty to roam the countryside.
“I saw in him a leader who had his ears for everyone. He wanted to learn about the communist rebellion and find a common ground to fight the Marcos dictatorship,” he said.
Cabanlas remembered that as residents in Cagayan de Oro gathered the courage to hold street demonstrations, Pimentel was always there.
“He was there to give us more courage as well as be concerned for our lives,” Cabanlas said.
City Administrator Teddy Sabugaa said the defining moment of Pimentel in Cagayan de Oro was when as mayor he passed a city ordinance declaring the last week of May every year as Press Freedom Week.
Sabugaa said it was the Cagayan de Oro Press Club that was given the honor to celebrate the Press Freedom Week.
“That defined the foundation of liberty in our city. We always speak what is in our minds without fear of reprisal,” he said.
Mayor Moreno said the philosophies and principles of Senator Pimentel did not die with him.
“His spirit lives on, especially among the young, “ Moreno said. (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)