Nene Pimentel, father of local government and cooperativism

Published October 26, 2019, 12:38 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid
Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

Many remember the late Senator Nene Pimentel as the senator for his fierce independence – his tendency to take the “road less travelled”  instead of the easier path.  During his lengthy  political career, we watched how consistently he acted, where his action matched his thought and word. Many have focused on his having  said “No” during many a critical time in our nation’s history.

Let me recall some of those moments:  As a young delegate of the Constitutional Convention, he voted against the 1973 Constitution. and as many know, it was prudent to join the majority during those dangerous times.  Again, together with the “Magnificent 12,” he voted “No” against the continuing stay of the US bases despite the fact that then President Cory had pleaded with him.  As secretary of interior in Cory’s government, he  refused offers that could compromise his integrity.

We marched together during the “parliament of the streets” to protest against the Marcos dictatorship and all those times, he remained true to his principles.  Then again, as Senate president when he presided over the impeachment of his friend, Joseph Estrada, he voted to open the envelope which could have convicted his friend.

Again, and again, during his tenure as senator, he turned against corruption, and injustice.  Needless to say, his dissents have done our country and our people a lot of good. His having said “No” was an act of protest against dictatorship and all forms of authoritarian rule, an assertion of our sovereign rights, an act against dishonesty and  injustice.  Thus, let me join the others by calling him  “the great dissenter.”

Now, let me focus on  areas where he gave his nod, and where he served with unwavering devotion and sacrifice.

One was his authorship of the Cooperative Code of 1990 and amended in 2008 which “fostered the creation and growth of cooperatives as vehicles for harnessing people power towards economic development and social justice.”

The Local Government Code signed in 1991 is considered one of the most revolutionary pieces of legislation because it radically transformed the nature of our country’s politically administered system. It uprooted the highly centralized decision-making by empowering the local government units , placing upon them, as frontline institutions, the responsibility of developing their respective territories.  When it was passed, Nene said: “The passage of the Code may be likened to the splitting of the atom in that it unleashes the forces of development with such tremendous impact that not only the privileged, but the masses as well may benefit from the fruits of modernization in this lifetime.”  During the launch of his second book, “The Local Government Revisited, 2007, then Makati Mayor Jojo Binay described Pimentel as a “hero” and the book as “a Bible in its own right, a national treasure.”

As a means of institutionalizing the partnership of government and cooperatives, Nene spearheaded the annual Coop-LGU  (CLPA)  Awards which lasted for some four years where selected partnerships were awarded. He invited as part of this group which carried out validation and selection of awardees. The project was in cooperation with the Land Bank, UP, and the Cooperative Development Authority.

There were the other equally important bills that he authored or sponsored – the Philippine Sports Commission Act, Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, People’s Small-Scale Mining Act, Generics Drugs, Establishing a Philippine Police Under a DILG.

At the memorial rites where the Senate and his colleagues in the past Senate honored him, Senator Frank Drilon described him as “a true patriot, a freedom fighter, and  champion of democracy, human rights, and local governance.” Senator Ralph Recto called him a “maverickwho could not resist a good fight.  His incurable, independent streak lost him the chance to acquire greater power as he refused to compromise the values he never sold…And he paid dearly for being true to his people as he spent years in prison. He was a great builder – of local autonomy and just peace.”  Vice President Robredo said our country is diminished by his passing.

Thank you Nene for having “marched” to the beat of your “drums” and for my being a friend to you and  Bing, and  Koko, Gwen, and the rest of the family. As I said when we were panelists on federalism,  I am sorry that  I had to be on the other side. To me, “federalism is the goal, but this is not the right time.  “I then acknowledged you as the “father” of some of  the best things that had happened to our country – “fathering the local government and the cooperative codes, and above all, fathering our Senate President Koko.”  Farewell, my mentor, icon, and friend.

My e-mail, [email protected]