Remembering Nene Pimentel
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2019 - 12:00am

Up to the last year of his life, Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel was a prominent voice in the national debates on major political issues. He has left a lasting legacy of a political figure who personified integrity, courage, idealism and nationalism. His personal lifestyle is concrete evidence that this is one rare politician who has had, through the years, occupied powerful positions; but, his lifestyle has barely changed.

Many people, especially the millennial generation, will remember him as the Minister for Local Government in Cory Aquino’s Cabinet, then as Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, Senate President, Senate Majority Floor Leader until he retired from politics. There were those of us  who had the fortunate experience of being associates of Nene during his active political life. The luckiest ones are those who worked closely with him during those terrible Martial Law years under Marcos. That was the Nene Pimentel that will always remain clearest in my memory.

I first heard of Nene Pimentel in the 1978 Batasan Pambansa elections. There had been a series of mock elections since Marcos declared martial law in 1972. At first, we believed this was another one and the consensus was not to participate. However, some opposition leaders led by Ninoy Aquino, who was in jail, said participating would allow us to bring our message to the people. This could be the first step in our non-violent struggle to regain our freedom.

The coalition Laban was formed and fielded candidates in Metro Manila. One of the candidates was Nene Pimentel who had made a name as one of the very few delegates in the Constitutional Convention who had the courage to oppose Marcos’ attempts to manipulate the convention. While the opposition ticket lost due to massive cheating and intimidation, it achieved the purpose of letting  people know that there was an opposition to the Marcos dictatorial regime.

Then in 1980, Marcos again allowed the holding of elections for local government posts. In the whole Philippines, only three opposition candidates won: Jose Laurel V as governor of Batangas, Bono Adaza as governor of Misamis Oriental and Nene Pimentel as mayor of Cagayan de Oro.

Then in 1984, Marcos again allowed elections for a Batasan Pambansa. This time the environment had changed. Ninoy Aquino was assassinated the previous year – Aug. 21, 1983. The people had gained courage and there was palpable anger. Rallies had become more frequent in spite of constant attempts by  the authorities to suppress them. More  than 50 oppositionists won. Nene had won as Assemblyman from Cagayan de Oro.

I had then become an active volunteer in PDP-LABAN, the political party which Nene headed as president. I was the campaign manager of Jaime Ferrer when he ran and won as assemblyman from Parañaque-Las Piñas district. Ferrer was elected PDP-LABAN chairman for Metro Manila. Peping Cojuangco was made secretary general; and I was selected to be one of three Deputy-Secretary Generals assigned to the Metro Manila area.

One day, Jaime Ferrer called a few of us and told us that he had arranged to have a private meeting with Nene Pimentel and we should volunteer our services to him. He told us that Ninoy had told them that it was possible that some day Nene would become President of the Philippines.

History will record that Nene Pimentel was one of the leading figures in the fight to  regain freedom and democracy for the Filipino people. There is a book that every one who wants to learn  about that tragic yet heroic period in our history must read.

The book Martial Law in the Philippines: My Story by Aquilino Pimentel Jr. is the story about the experiences the author and his family underwent during  the martial law regime. He was jailed four times during that period; but, he never gave up the struggle.

It also is a precious historical document of critical moments in our nation’s history during that period. In the foreword of the book, President Corazon Aquino wrote: “Thank you Nene for telling us your story. While it evokes nostalgia in those of us who marched with you during the martial law years, it should inspire present and future generations of leaders to take the road less travelled and march to the different drum of principled politics.”

In his introduction to the book, the human rights activist former Senator Joker Arroyo wrote: “Get hold of it, read it, keep it always in view. Before a collective experience can become a shaping influence on a people, someone must first make sense of it for them. Nene Pimentel has done that pre-eminently well in this book.”

One of the most interesting stories in the book is the birth of PDP; and its merger with LABAN for the PDP-LABAN party. Nene writes: “The situation [martial law] appeared to confront the people with only two alternatives – support martial law or go for rebellion.  A number of us ...thought we should offer our people a third peaceful, nonviolent choice. This is  how PDP-LABAN ...” a non-traditional party...with some unusual fundamental principles like belief in God and in the dignity of the human being” was born.

Nene Pimentel was a true fighter for freedom and defender of democracy. He is a national hero.

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on Nov. 9 and 23 (1:30 pm-3pm; stand-alone sessions) at Fully Booked BGC.  Adult class on fiction writing  with Jose Y. Dalisay, Jr. on Nov. 16, 1:30-4:30 pm. For details and registration,  email

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