Even through siopao, Nene Pimentel showed statesmanship

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 23 2019 11:55 AM | Updated as of Oct 23 2019 01:24 PM

Even through siopao, Nene Pimentel showed statesmanship 1
Former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr. gestures during the 2004 election canvassing in this file photo. AFP/file

MANILA (UPDATE) -- The late Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr. used to divide a single siopao or pork bun equally among his colleagues, sincere and unpretentious throughout his nearly 5 decades in public service, a former colleague said Tuesday.

Incumbent and former senators spoke about Pimentel, crusader for democracy and local governments, during a necrological service at the Senate.

Pimentel split siopao among his friends because he did not have money for an extravagant treat, said former Sen. Joey Lina, who described himself as the late lawmaker's "errand boy."

"I lost a father, a teacher and a friend," said Lina, who helped Pimentel draft the Local Government Code of the Philippines.

"But more than that, my grief comes from the realization that our country lost a great Filipino statesman who championed human rights and excellence in local government," he said.

The late Senate President’s “humility” showed other politicians that it was possible to “survive with core values intact,” former Senator Orly Mercado said.

“He showed me how to keep your values sacrosanct because he knew what was right and what was wrong. He knew what was just and unjust,” said.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he learned the same lesson from his “idol” and “top mentor” Pimentel Jr.

“To my dear idol, Senate President Nene, nagpapasalamat din po ako na may naiwan kayong kaisipan matapos kong pag-aralan ang inyong buhay. Puwede naman palang pumasok sa pulitika at mamaalam na marangal pa rin,” Sotto said.

(To my dear idol, Senate President Nene, thank you because your life is an example that you can enter and leave politics as an honorable person.)

Guests in Pimentel Jr.’s “last Senate visit” also shared a few laughs after his friends shared the late Senate President’s light-hearted side.

“As quiet mentor, he taught me a lot about humility [na] kapag ikaw ay nahalal na senador, meron ka maririnig na boses telling you, "Ikaw ang susunod na pangulo ng bansa,’” Mercado said, prompting the crowd - composed of former and current legislators - to laugh in the solemn rites.

(When you are elected senator, voices in your head will tell you that you are the next president of the country.)

“‘Yang mga boses na yan ay hindi mawawala. Ang natutunan ko ay wag kausapin,” he said.

(Those voices will not go away, what I learned from him was to not talk to them.)

“He had a sense of humor. He would come up with one liners during very serious debates,” he added.

Aside from being “generous with praise and slow to criticism,” Senator Pia Cayetano also shared how Pimentel Jr. helped her out both in her professional and private life.

“One day out of the blue, Tito Nene said to me, ‘Pia, I don't do this but you deserve to be happy and meet a good man,’” Cayetano said.

“He proceeded to introduce me to someone, the outcome of which I will leave to your speculation. It will remain to be a Pimentel-Cayetano family secret,” she said eliciting laugh from the late statesman’s family and friends.

Pimentel died before dawn Sunday after battling lymphoma. He was 85. Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier filed a resolution 168, recognizing the late lawmaker as "one of the country's steadfast and visionary leaders."

"He was the first and only senator to file a bill to convert the current government set-up into a federal form during his time," the resolution read.

"[It] is intended to bring independence to each localities and empower the people," it read.

Before he was elected senator, Pimentel was a delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention. President Corazon Aquino later appointed him as interior secretary.

In January 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Pimentel to lead a consultative committee that created a draft federal charter.

He was survived by his wife Lourdes and their 6 children, including his namesake and incumbent senator, Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III. The young Pimentel also served as senate president.

The late senator's remains will be brought back to his hometown Cagayan de Oro for a 2-day viewing and necrological service before his burial at the Heritage Park in Taguig on Oct. 25.