RESPECTED STATESMAN. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte greets Senate President Aquilino 'Koko' Pimentel III and former Senator Aquilino 'Nene' Pimentel Jr. prior to the start of the meeting with officials from the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) at the Diamond Hotel in Manila on August 9, 2018. Joining the President is Sec. Bong Go of the Office of the Special Assistant to the President. (Presidential photo)

MANILA -- Malacañang expressed its deepest condolences to the family of former Senate President Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr. who passed away early Sunday morning.

Pimentel, 85, died of lymphoma, which is a cancer of the immune system, his son, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, said.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Palace and the entire nation were saddened by the demise of the former Senate President whose contributions to the country were exemplary.

"Today is a sad day for the nation. The Palace joins the Filipino people in mourning the demise of former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and expressing condolences to his family, loved ones, colleagues and friends," Panelo said in a statement.

“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,” Panelo added.

The late lawmaker was the founder of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

The PDP-Laban’s current president is his son, the younger Pimentel, while its chairman is President Rodrigo Duterte.

Panelo said the Filipino people were grateful for the former Senate President’s “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,” he said.

The elder Pimentel, who hails from Cagayan de Oro, served as Senate President from November 2000 to July 2001.

He also authored Republic Act 7160 or the Local Code of the Philippines which grants greater powers to local governments.

Panelo acknowledged the late Senate President’s resolve to give local chief executives wider authority.

“As the acknowledged Father of the Local Government Code, former Senator Pimentel gave his wisdom and lent his voice of the need to empower local governments,” the Palace official said.

True patriot

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, in a separate statement, said the death of the elder Pimentel is tantamount to a “loss of a great leader and a pillar of our democracy.”

“Former Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. was a true patriot,” Nograles, whose family is a close friend of the Pimentel clan, said.

“He fought and sacrificed to win the freedoms Filipinos now enjoy. As author of the Local Government Code, he laid down the high standards of good and honest governance in all levels of our bureaucracy,” he added.

Nograles expressed hope that the elder Pimentel’s accomplishments as public servant “will continue to guide and inspire us and the many generations to come,” despite the latter’s demise.

The Pimentel patriarch was also a member of the Consultative Committee, which was formed by Duterte and tasked to introduce amendments to the 1987 Constitution that will pave the way for the current administration’s planned shift to a federal state.

Panelo said the Duterte government appreciates the elder Pimentel’s contributions for the crafting of a draft federal charter.

“The Duterte administration is grateful to the elder Pimentel for joining the current government in his capacity as one of the members of the Consultative Committee (ConCom) tasked by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to review the 1987 Constitution and draft a new charter that would pave the way for a federal form of government,”

Inspiring statesman

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar honored Nene Pimentel calling the late lawmaker as an “inspiring statesman”.

“Senator Nene Pimentel was an inspiring statesman. Throughout his career, he had been a freedom fighter and a proponent of democracy,” Andanar said.

“His passing is not just a loss for those who knew him but a loss for the entire country. We extend our deepest sympathies to the Pimentel family, our prayers are with you,” he added.

The Communications chief thanked the elder Pimentel for being an “inspiration” to Filipinos by being a “true public servant.”

“Personally, he (the Pimentel patriarch) was a neighbor and a close family friend who cheered and supported our family all the way. More than that, he was a bright light to us, his fellow Kagayanons,” Andanar said.

“He was an inspiration to many, making a difference not only through legislation but later on through his advocacy, such as federalism. [The late] Senator Pimentel was a true public servant,” he added.

In a twitter post, Andanar also said that the public appreciates the late lawmaker’s “great sacrifices” for the country. (PNA)