MANILA (UPDATED) - Cagayan de Oro City loves the late Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., contrary to the claim of President Rodrigo Duterte, city mayor Oscar Moreno said Wednesday.
“I would view the statement of the President as ano na, iyong season, political season na ‘no. And iyon lang, medyo masakit lang, dinamay si Nene," Moreno said.
"Noong sabihin niya kay Senator (Aquilino) Koko (Pimentel III), okay lang iyan, that’s fair game. Pero kay Senator Nene, medyo masakit,” he added.
(I would view the statement of the President as part of the political season. What hurts is he involved Nene. When he said the part about Senator Koko, that was okay. But with Senator Nene, that was a bit painful.)
"People here in Cagayan de Oro know the kind of person Nene was," he told state television PTV.
Pimentel Jr. was Misamis Oriental's delegate to the Constitutional Convention before martial law.
He was jailed twice for opposing the dictatorship of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
In 1980, Cagayan de Oro residents contributed money to fund Pimentel Jr.'s mayoralty bid since he only had P2,000 for his campaign budget. Pimentel and his slate won in that election against Marcos-backed opponents.
Pimentel served as former President Corazon Aquino's Minister of Local Government and presidential adviser and chief negotiator with the Moro rebels before he ran for senator and won in 1987.
"Karamihan ng local leaders na napunta sa Manila as senator ay focus pa rin sa local politics dahil yan ang bailiwick nila, but that was not Sen. Nene," Moreno said.
(Most local leaders who go to Manila as senator still focus on local politics because that is their bailiwick, but that was not Sen. Nene.)
"When he became senator, he focused on the issues of the country, hindi na local politics," he said.
Duterte, during the meeting of PDP-Laban last July 17, belittled the Pimentels, calling the ruling party that the deceased senator founded, a “father and son party” that allegedly "slept for 100 years" until he came on board.
“They (Pimentels) are not even well known in Cagayan de Oro where they are from. This is not an insult. It is the truth. They cannot win there, even just for a barangay captain race,” Duterte claimed.
Moreno said the people of Cagayan de Oro respect and love the late Pimentel.
“I would say Senator Koko can defend himself, but not in the case of Senator Nene. But we know deep in our hearts how we love Senator Nene,” he said.
In 2017, Pimentel Jr. supported Moreno when the Office of the Ombudsman issued a penalty of dismissal and perpetual disqualification from holding public office against the Cagayan de Oro Mayor for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the interest of service.
Among the 48 graft cases against Moreno was his alleged involvement in irregularities linked to the rental of heavy equipment in Misamis Oriental when he was governor from 2007 to 2012.
"While it is good the mayor can still avail of legal remedies like asking the appellate court for temporary restraining order, I can say it is unfair that you chop one case to harass an official," Pimentel Jr. had said in a public forum.
Moreno should "fight for what he thinks is right," he said.
Duterte spewed tirades against the Pimentel father-and-son during the ruling party's assembly, where Sen. Manny Pacquiao and the younger Pimentel were removed as PDP-Laban's president and executive vice-chairman. The national assembly was called by Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi, who was previously expelled as the party's vice-chairman.
Pacquiao and Pimentel's group said it does not recognize the assembly attended by Duterte, who backs the Cusi camp.
Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza urged those involved in the "power struggle" in PDP-Laban "to refrain from belittling and diminishing the important role" of the late senator and his party in restoring the country's democracy.
“Nene was one of the most genuine and real patriots, he never worried about his own safety and comfort. His only concern was to liberate the nation from martial rule and Mr. Marcos’ dictatorship,” said Atienza, BUHAY Party-list Representative.
“Wag niyo namang kaladkarin sa putikan ang alaala ni Nene Pimentel sa inyong bangayan at pagnanais na mapasainyo ang liderato ng Partido na siya at si Ninoy Aquino at iba pang mga lumaban sa diktadurya upang maibalik ang ating kalayaan at demokrasya," he added.
“I witnessed the genuineness of his desire to restore our rights and freedom which we are now enjoying. 'Wag niyong dumihan, maliitin at baliwalain ang kontribusyon ni Nene."
Aitenza said the late senator organized the PDP "as a vehicle to fight the Marcos KBL party. Laban, meanwhile, was organized by Ninoy Aquino during his detention also to accomplish the same.”
“Nene Pimentel and Ninoy Aquino both deserve revered positions in our memory and history,” he said.
Pimentel, a senator for 17 years, passed away in October 2019 at the age of 85.
Monico Puentevella, a longtime friend of Pacquiao, said that the rift between the Pacquiao-Pimentel group and the Duterte-Cusi faction is due to the latter's support for a possible presidential bid next year of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
The younger Pimentel earlier blasted PDP-Laban members supposedly supporting "outsiders" for the upcoming 2022 elections, saying a certain group is "actively re-organizing" the party from within, without proper authority.
He cited Cusi's faction for organizing a meeting in Cebu City in late May even though Pacquiao forbade it.
"Worst of all, this group is hiding behind the popularity of the President in order to do this," Pimentel said.