Marcos foe and former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. passes away at 85

Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., best known for standing up to dictator Ferdinand Marcos — and spending months in jail as a result — passed away yesterday due to pneumonia and lymphoma, a form of cancer. He was 85.

In an interview on radio station DZMM, his son Senator Koko Pimentel said that the cancer had spread throughout his father’s body.

“Hence many organs were affected. In the end, it was the heart that gave up,” he said. “We thank all those who have been a part of his life. We ask for prayers for the repose of Tatay [“Father”] Nene’s soul.”

Born in Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental, Aquilino was a lawyer from a family of politicians. He famously criticized Marcos’ declaration of martial law in 1972, and a year later was imprisoned for three months for his beliefs. After he was freed, he worked as a lawyer for urban poor communities and farmers.

The late Pimentel continued to run for different government positions but ended up being imprisoned three times over the years for various reasons, from participating in protests against Marcos to allegedly giving money to rebels.

Pimentel supported Corazon Aquino’s run for the presidency in 1986, and was appointed her interior secretary after she was swept to power by the People Power Revolution that toppled Marcos’ regime that same year. He later resigned from his post and was elected senator from 1987 to 1992, and from 1998 to 2010.

Along with former Vice President Jejomar Binay, Aquilino was the co-founder of the political party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan (“Democratic Party of Filipinos – Strength of the Nation”), whose current chairman is President Rodrigo Duterte.

Before he died, Aquilino was also part of a committee that was responsible for drafting a new constitution that would have changed the form of government to federalism, but the effort has been tainted by accusations that it was a way for politicians to become more deeply entrenched in office and amass greater power.

In a statement released yesterday, Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo said that the government extended its condolences to Aquilino’s family, colleagues, and friends. “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,” Panelo said. 

Vice President Leni Robredo, in a separate statement yesterday, praised Aquilino for being “a true patriot.”

“His long and storied career as a statesman is replete with moments of moral courage as he stood firm against the oftentimes cruel realities of politics and history,” Robredo said.

Former Vice President Binay also paid tribute to his late friend in a statement yesterday.

“Nene is a true patriot, whose years of service to the nation tells of profound love for Filipinos and a deep dedication to ensuring the growth and strengthening of our institutions towards a stronger democracy,” Binay said. “Thank you, Nene, for the many years of friendship.”

Aquilino’s wake will be held at the Heritage Park in Taguig City from today until Tuesday, after which his body will be brought to the Senate in Pasay City, where it will stay until Friday morning, GMA News reports. It will then be brought back to the Heritage Park on Friday afternoon. Interment has yet to be announced by his family.

He is survived by his wife, Lourdes Pimentel, and six children, including Koko and Commission on Human Rights member Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana.

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This article, Marcos foe and former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. passes away at 85, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!