MANILA -- (4th UPDATE) The Philippines on Sunday mourned the passing of democracy icon, former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr.
Malacañang, in a statement, thanked Pimentel for his "long, fearless and principled track record of public service."
"He would forever be etched in our history as a giant among his peers who championed democracy and electoral reform and a visionary who espoused devolution of powers and strong local governance," Presidential spokesperson Salvor Panelo said.
"As we pay tribute and honor to this respected and courageous statesman, we fervently pray for the Almighty to grant Senator Nene eternal repose. May the perpetual light shine upon him."
Vice President Leni Robredo described the late senator as the "lead advocate for local governance, a tireless champion of human rights, and a true patriot."
"His long and storied career as a statesman is replete with moments of moral courage as he stood firm against the oftentimes cruel realities of politics and history," she said.
"With the rest of a grateful Filipino nation, I offer my sincerest condolences to his family and loved ones."
Former Vice President Jejomar Binay hailed Pimentel as an "exemplary public servant who championed the empowerment and development" of LGUs.
"More than a senator, Nene was a friend. We started PDP-Laban together, and have fought alongside each other on issues that will protect our people and promote progress," he said.
"Nene is a true patriot, whose years of service to the nation tells of profound love for Filipinos and a deep dedication to ensuring the growth and strengthening of our institutions towards a stronger democracy. Salamat, Nene sa ilang dekada ng paninilbihan sa sambayanang Pilipino. Salamat, Nene sa ilang taon ng pagkakaibigan."
The late statesman was also a member of the Duterte administration's consultative committee tasked to review the 1987 Constitution, who said it was "honored and privileged to have worked with him in the service of the nation."
"Senator Pimentel was not just a public servant. He was, above all, a steadfast advocate of true reforms and real change, a defender of the rights of all, a man of humility, honesty and integrity, a constitutionalist, and a great Filipino and patriot," it said.
"The Filipino nation will forever be grateful to Senator Pimentel for his unselfish service and great sacrifice. He will surely be missed, but his legacy will live on and continue to inspire Filipinos in seeking and aspiring for a better nation for themselves and their children."
The committee's "best tribute" to Pimentel would be to "work harder for federalism, his last advocacy for a better Philippines," according to its chairman, former Chief Justice Reynato Puno.
"It is not a coincidence that on October 26 we are going to Cagayan de Oro, his home province, to push for federalism. Nene will always be with us even if he is now in the embrace of the Lord," Puno said, as quoted by the committee.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who hails from Davao City, mourned the death of Pimentel, a "true Mindanaoan."
"Manong Nene was an inspiration when I ventured into politics," he said.
"We mourn the passing of a champion of democracy and human rights, but we should all be comforted with the thought that Manong Nene's accomplishments as public servant will continue to guide and inspire us and the many generations to come."
Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, who served as Senate majority leader under Pimentel, also mourned the death of his "idol."
"My family and I bereave this very sad news. I feel like I lost a close relative and not just a friend," he said.
"My 6 years with him from 1998 to 2004 were very educational for me not only in politics but also in family matters. My family and I loved him."
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, meantime, said Pimentel's death was a "great loss for Mindanao and the nation."
"He is one of those I consider as one of the great pillars of our country's democracy in the last 50 years. I'm honored to have had the opportunity to work with him in the 14th Congress and even if we had some differences then, he still treated me professionally and mentored me on the issues of human rights and above all the rule of law," he said.
"As a Mindanaoan, I am truly saddened with this development. May God bless his soul."
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said he would personally remember Pimentel as the "champion of local government units (LGUs)."
"Because of his landmark measure, the Local Government Code of 1991, Pimentel has empowered LGUs across the country by allowing them to create their own source of revenue and enable them to levy taxes and fees, among others," he said.
"Tatay Nene Pimentel lived a passionate and fruitful life. He may have left us, but his legacy will always remain and be remembered."
Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan also extended his sympathies to Pimentel's family.
"Sa ngalan ng aking pamilya sa pakikibaka, nagpapasalamat ako sa ibinahagi niyang buhay para sa karapatang pantao, kalayaan, at demokrasya noong panahon ng diktadura. Salamat," he said.
Sen. Grace Poe hailed Pimentel as a "principled principled leader, patriot, statesman."
"Senator Nene always kept watch and put himself on the line for the sake of the Filipino people. Our heartfelt prayers are with his family," she said.
Pimentel's "greatness was only eclipsed by his love for this nation and its people," according to Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
"This is a void that will probably never be filled. But I know he would want us to continue the struggle for freedom, democracy, the defense of human rights and the rule of law, and so we shall.
Rest in Peace, Ka Nene. Maraming, maraming salamat sa lahat," she said.
Sen. Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara said Pimentel lent his "big voice to the small people."
"That has been the story of his life – an advocate for the down and out, a champion of the powerless and the persecuted," he said.
"But he was as good in opposing abuses as he was in proposing solutions to the problems of the state. Senator Nene was the lawmaker’s lawmaker, both in intelligence to craft or critique laws and the discipline to consistently do it."
Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go offered his condolences to the family of the late senator, whom he said was a "visionary, democracy leader and a hard working legislator."
"Tatay Nene, as he is fondly called, was a fellow Mindanaoan and a staunch ally in fighting for advocacies he shared with Tatay Digong even before President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration until now," he said.
"As one of the pillars of PDP-Laban, we are eternally grateful for his wisdom and support for this administration, especially during the 2016 and 2019 elections."
Sen. Richard Gordon also hailed Pimentel as a statesman who was "committed to whatever causes he chose to advocate in his lifetime and persevered in pursuing them."
"He was a dedicated public servant, and even in retirement, continued to express his views on issues that mattered to him and that he believed were in the public interest. Rest in peace, Senator Nene Pimentel," he said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said he would remember Pimentel as someone who called his attention to respond to attacks on his honor and dignity as a freshman senator in 2001.
"I did follow his advice by delivering my first privilege speech... Of course, while it took a long time for the truth to finally come out, truth nevertheless triumphed over the evil of lies and deception," he said.
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima praised the late statesman as a "defender of democracy."
"He may be gone, but his legacy of wisdom in defending democracy will live forever in the hearts of the people. May the Pimentel family find comfort in the love and appreciation of the people for Sen. Nene," she said.
House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, said the country "lost another intellectual giant" in Pimentel's passing.
"Senate President Pimentel is a good man and a great leader. His dedicated public service and brilliant leadership are beyond question. He will be remembered for leading an honorable life," he said.
The Commission on Human Rights also mourned the death of Pimentel, whom it described as a "fearless Filipino statesman and human rights defender."
"Ka Nene will always be remembered for committing his life’s work to improving the lives of others, standing up for truth and integrity, and protecting our democracy," it said.
Pimentel's daughter Gwendolyn Pimentel-Gana serves as a CHR commissioner.