Remembering Nene Pimentel
(The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2019 - 12:00am

Two incidents indelibly stand out in my memory of Nene Pimentel.

The first happened shortly before the start of the 1992 presidential campaign when he ran for vice president in tandem with presidential candidate Jovy Salonga. The Koalisyong Pambansa (KP) was forged by PDP-Laban led by Nene and the Liberal Party (LP) by Jovy.

Even at the start of the campaign, the coalition was cash-strapped. This was mainly because both LP and PDP-Laban had taken a public stand against the 1991 extension of the US military bases in Clark and Subic. In fact, Jovy, who was Senate President, and Nene, who was a senator, were among the “Magnificent 12” who voted against their extension when the treaty came before the Senate.

The business sector favored the extension because it strongly believed that the continued presence of the US bases provided reliable protection against the repeated destabilizing coup attempts by certain elements of the Philippine military. Its position hardened from the Dec. 1-9, 1989 attempt, which could have succeeded had not the United States intervened to crush it when US fighter jets from the aircraft carriers USS Midway and USS Enterprise and F-4 Phantom II fighters from Clark Air Base “retook the skies for the Aquino government” from the rebel planes.

Well-meaning businessmen-friends of Nene and Jovy urged them to stay mum in the campaign trail on the historic Senate vote to encourage financial contributions. In several conversations of the two at which I happened to be present, Nene would say: “Jovy, let us rather be right than elected in this election. Let us proudly explain to the people our stand on the bases.”

The second incident was shortly after the campaign began when an unexpected offer came from Malacañang – an opportunity for a bail out from the coalition’s financial distress although at a stiff price.

The surveys had consistently shown

Miriam Defensor with an insurmountable lead over the administration candidate Fidel Ramos of Lakas-NUCD, whose vice presidential aspirant was Emilio “Lito” Osmeña of PROMDI.

Thus, President Cory Aquino, through a trusted emissary, offered Jovy to absorb 12 of the 24 senatorial line-up of KP provided Jovy and Nene withdraw in favor of Ramos and Osmeña.

Realizing the financial crunch in which the KP was in, Jovy was willing to sacrifice. When he privately consulted KP’s 24 senatorial candidates, they let him decide which 12 of them would join if the offer were accepted. Jovy, however, out of his high regard for Nene, did not want to decide for him. He chose to let Nene decide for himself.

One early evening, Jovy met with Nene on the second floor of Jovy’s Pasig residence. He asked me to be present. Jovy informed Nene of Malacanang’s offer even while he explained to him KP’s dire financial situation.

Nene’s response was curt and direct-to-the-point.

“Jovy, tuloy tayo kahit wala tayong pera,” he said. “Manindigan tayo at maglakad kung kailangan maglakad.”

Jovy stood up, shook hands with Nene and said no word.


Raul A. Daza LP Secretary-General, 1986-1994 LP President, 1994-1998 Senior Deputy Speaker, 1995-1998 Deputy Speaker, 2010-2013

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