Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr. took on every battle in his almost five decades in public service, from changing the Constitution to opposing a dictatorial regime and poll fraud.
Pimentel first rose to national prominence as a delegate of the 1971 Constitutional Convention, but his visions of reform were cut short after then President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law, shutting down Congress.
He was then jailed four times during the Martial Law regime for opposing Marcos’ dictatorship which left over 3,000 people dead and over 70,000 imprisoned by the time Ferdinand Marcos was ousted from power due to a bloodless People Power Revolution in February 1986.
In 1973, Pimentel was arrested and detained for three months for opposing the Marcos-backed Constitution. In 1978, the regime detained him for two months in Camp Bicutan in Taguig City for leading a demonstration against what he termed farcical elections for seats to the Batasang Pambansa.
Five years later, Pimentel was arrested again on charges of rebellion for allegedly giving P100 to a New People’s Army commander. In 1985, he was arrested for his alleged role in an ambush in Cebu City.
After the People Power Revolution, Pimentel was appointed as Minister of Local Government by then President Corazon Aquino before being elected to the Senate in 1987.
In 1991, he authored the landmark legislation, the Local Government Code, which gave local government units the authority “to create their own sources of revenues and to levy taxes, fees, and charges which shall accrue exclusively for their use and disposition and which shall be retained by them; to have a just share in national taxes which shall be automatically and directly released to them without need of any further action; to have an equitable share in the proceeds from the utilization and development of the national wealth and resources within their respective territorial jurisdictions including sharing the same with the inhabitants by way of direct benefits; to acquire, develop, lease, encumber, alienate, or otherwise dispose of real or personal property held by them in their proprietary capacity and to apply their resources and assets for productive, developmental, or welfare purposes.”
He ran for Vice President in the 1992 elections under the Liberal Party-PDP-Laban Coalition with another Martial law freedom fighter, Jovita Salonga running for President. Pimentel, however, lost to then Senator Joseph Estrada.
Pimentel launched a comeback in politics in 1995 by running for the Senate, but lost in the final count by landing at 15th place. He, however, contested the results before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET). After SET’s tabulation, it was revealed that the votes for Pimentel were credited to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and that Enrile should have finished 15th in the 1995 race.
Enrile elevated the case to the Supreme Court, but the case has been declared moot by the High Court since Pimentel was reelected to the Senate in 1998 and again in 2004.
As Senate President in 2001, he voted to open the second envelope of evidence along with opposition senators during the impeachment trial of then President Joseph Estrada.
Estrada was eventually ousted from Malacañang in January 2001.
Pimentel’s latest stint in government is being one of the members of the Consultative Committee (ConCom) tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to review the 1987 Constitution and draft a new one that will pave the way for a federal form of government.
The ConCom’s draft, however, was not adopted and passed by Congress into law.
Pimentel passed away on Sunday due to organ failure following a battle with lymphoma and pneumonia. He was 85. —KG, GMA News