WATCH: Koko Pimentel on using our ‘kokote’
MANILA. Philippines – As a topflight academic, lawyer and legislator, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III offers what seems to be a simple test for any decision he makes on national policy: “Is it good for the Filipino people? That is the objective test.”
The former Senate President makes this comment at the beginning of a recent video that describes his influences, experiences, and principles throughout a storied career.
He described his father, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., as a stern disciplinarian who nonetheless advised his children to “follow your conscience.” Since then, the younger Pimentel had viewed service in politics “as a way to repay society.”
“I want to be known as Mr. Justice because I want to continue my obsession to improve our justice system,” he says in the video as he defines the lasting legacy he wishes to leave behind.
On the perennial subject of corruption, the reelectionist senator emphasizes that the answer can be found in every citizen’s basic inalienable right to vote. “Let us vote for candidates who are not tainted with corruption. There are 62 candidates for senator, do not tell me there are not 12 of them who are not corrupt. It is in our hands.”
He also repeated his now-famous slogan: “Use your Kokote.” It is a play on his name and the popular Filipino aphorism to “use your coconut,” or to “use your brains.”
It was perhaps this appeal to rationalism and multi-dimensional thinking that led the senator to eventually persuade President Rodrigo Duterte to run, and win, in the elections of 2016.
Senator Pimentel and his father, longtime supporters of the President from the very start, fielded a stand-in candidate from PDP-Laban for a then-reluctant Davao City Mayor Duterte to “substitute” when the time came.
He also added that there was no prior agreement between him and the President that this would play out as it did. And just as well, according to the senator, the Filipino people finally got an incorruptible President.
“As his point man in the Senate, I drew out a strategy so that the promises of the President would not be compromised,” he said. As examples, he gives the Free Tuition Act, Free Irrigation Act and the Anti-Red Tape Act as major legislation that were passed as a direct fulfillment of those promises.
“As a bonus, we also extended the validity of driver’s licenses to five years, and of passports to 10 years.” These were measures which proved extremely popular with the public. Pimentel also cites legislation passed during his term at the Senate’s helm which rationalized tax laws as well as established universal health care and the Bangsamoro Organic Law.
Among other hard-earned platitudes, Senator Pimentel expresses visible pride at being called the “Father of the Modern NBI” by no less than the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) director himself. The video then cuts to a direct quote from the President who describes Pimentel as “a Bar topnotcher, Mr. Public Service, and a person of principle. This is enough for me to salute him.”
All of this the Senator says he could not do without the “rock, the anchor, inspiration, lighthouse, radar, compass…everything”—his present wife with whom he wishes to build a legacy for his family. “When my kids have their own kids, I want them to look on their lolo as someone who helped improve the justice system, who fought for justice, and who was a consistently objective person…with no personal agenda, only the agenda of the people.”