MANILA - (3rd UPDATE) Former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel, a fierce critic of the Marcos dictatorship, has passed away, his family said Sunday. He was 85.
Pimentel, a senator for 17 years, had been "very ill" and was hospitalized due to pneumonia, PDP-Laban said earlier this week.
The late lawmaker was the founder of the PDP-Laban. The party's current president is his son, Sen. Koko Pimentel, while President Rodrigo Duterte is its chairman.
His wife Lourdes, in a DZMM interview on Sunday, thanked the public for their prayers.
"Ako po ay nagpapasalamat sa lahat ng ating mga kababayan sa inyong dasal. Harinawa magdasal din tayo for his eternal rest. Marami pong salamat," she said.
The late senator was sick with lymphoma, a form of cancer, according to his son Koko.
"This already spread throughout his body. Hence many organs were affected. In the end it was the heart which 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 Nene’s soul. Thank you to all."
Born on Dec. 11, 1933, the elder Pimentel came from a family of politicians in Cagayan de Oro, Misamis Oriental.
As a young lawyer, he was elected as his province's delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention that was tasked to propose amendments to the charter, under President Ferdinand Marcos.
Pimentel opposed amendments that he deemed contrary to the people's interest and also criticized Marcos' declaration of martial law in 1972.
Critics of Marcos were rounded up early next year, which led to the 3-month detention of Pimentel, who by then had a young family. He was released in time for the signing of the Constitution, which he and a few other delegates refused to support.
He then served as lawyer for the National Secretariat for Social Action of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, helping farmers and the urban poor allegedly oppressed by Marcos.
Pimentel ran for senator in 1978 under Lakas ng Bayan (Laban) with Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. But Marcos' party swept the seats, which opposition leaders claimed was due to massive cheating.
Pimentel was arrested for leading a protest against the elections and he was jailed for a second time for 2 months.
When Marcos allowed local elections in 1980, Pimentel ran and won as Cagayan De Oro mayor by a 3-1 margin against a rival fielded by the President's party.
The Commission on Elections, however, ousted Pimentel as mayor the next year for "political turcoatism," noting that he switched to the National Union for Democracy from Laban in 1978, and again moved to the Mindanao Alliance in 1980.
In protest, about 30 of his supporters fasted and 10,000 people later marched across Cagayan De Oro. Pimentel's lawyers, meanwhile, argued that Comelec had no jurisdiction over the case.
The poll body, however, reaffirmed its ruling.
To defuse tensions spawned by photos of the Cagayan de Oro rally, Marcos reinstalled Pimentel, pending a Supreme Court decision.
In 1983, Pimentel was arrested on rebellion charges and detained for the third time for allegedly giving P100 to a rebel leader. He disputed the charges and was later released.
He was arrested for a fourth time for alleged participation in ambuscades. His supporters bailed him out and he spent 7 months in house arrest, during which he campaigned for assemblyman at the Batasan Pambansa.
OPPOSITION LEADER, CORY'S ALLY
About a year after the 1983 assassination of Aquino, Pimentel won a Batasang Pambansa seat, which he lost after the Marcos government accused him of cheating.
Pimentel also rallied the opposition with Aquino's widow, Corazon, who asked him to be his running mate in 1985, before he gave way to Salvador “Doy” Laurel, Jr.
Allegations of cheating in the 1986 elections set off the peaceful EDSA People Power revolution that toppled the Marcos regime and installed Aquino as president.
Pimentel served as Aquino's interior minister and later, adviser and chief negotiator with the Muslim rebels. He resigned from the Cabinet to run for the Senate in 1987.
Pimentel served as senator from 1987 to 1992, and from 1998 to 2010. He was Senate President from 2000 to 2001.
He authored and sponsored laws that created the Philippine Sports Commission, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and the Philippine National Police.
He was also behind the Local Government Code of 1991 and the Generic Drugs Act.
As chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee, he recommended the prosecution of officials over the Expo Pilipino centennial scam, misuse of military retirement funds and benefits, and the falsification of land titles.
He also led hearings into the jueteng allegations of former governor Luis Singson against then-President Joseph Estrada in 2000, and was Senate president during the latter's impeachment trial.
Pimentel lost the vice-presidential race in 1992 as Senator Jovito Salonga’s running mate, prompting him to go on political hiatus, during which he established his law practice in Metro Manila.
He also lost in the the 1995 Senate race over which he filed a protest due to alleged vote-padding and shaving or "dagdag-bawas."
The democracy icon is survived by his wife and 6 children, including Koko Pimentel and human rights commissioner Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana.