Sen. Aquilino ‘Koko’ Pimentel III’s 1st day: Praise, pressure, promise
The Senate session hall was so tightly packed with well-wishers that it took newly proclaimed Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III more than 15 minutes to cross its length and join his family in the VIP gallery.
Clad in a cream-colored barong Tagalog, Pimentel slowly made his way across roughly 20 meters while shaking hands, posing for pictures and answering queries thrown by media.
“Masyado n’yo akong pine-pressure, eh (you guys are pressuring me too much),” he mock-complained as he abruptly concluded an impromptu news conference in front of the Senate rostrum.
“Get used to it,” a reporter advised. Pimentel smiled.
Before Monday’s session began, Pimentel’s supporters converged on Room 512 which was vacated last week by resigned senator Juan Miguel Zubiri. Two men stood in the corridor carrying a banner that read “Welcome and Mabuhay!”
In the innermost office, the smell of fresh paint lingered while running priest Fr. Robert Reyes celebrated mass.
Pimentel’s posse—led by his proud father, former senator Aquilino Jr., mother Bing and wife Jewel—later moved to the session hall VIP gallery.
Reporters immediately gathered around the new senator as he posed for photos with the choir that would sing the National Anthem.
It was there he encountered his first official ambush interview inside the session hall.
Does he prefer to head a specific committee? Would he join the Senate majority or minority?
“I’m glad to accept whatever committee the Senate leadership would offer. I heard there would be a caucus (Tuesday) to discuss this,” he replied.
Sen. Ralph Recto and majority leader Vicente Sotto III were the first to welcome the new senator.
Pimentel squinted as cameramen suddenly trained their lights on his face.
A few more steps and photographers jostled for position when Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. approached.
Marcos’ father, the late dictator Ferdinand Sr., had imprisoned Pimentel’s father during martial law.
“I’m glad to see you here,” Marcos told Pimentel.
Kibitzing journalists asked Marcos if he would relinquish the Senate committee on local government to Pimentel, who expressed an interest in chairing it.
“I welcome him as a member,” Marcos said.
Pimentel managed to exchange pleasantries with Sen. Panfilo Lacson before finally reaching the VIP gallery.
“I was raised an optimist, not a defeatist…I thank my father, the source of my DNA as a democrat and a freedom fighter,” Pimentel said in his speech.
He also thanked his mother whom he called “my most valuable prayer warrior,” adding that “God works His wonders in terms that are truly divine.”
“Who would have thought the protest I filed four years ago would be resolved in the manner we have witnessed? Pessimists have told me to give up the protest…Had I acceded, (it would have been) at the expense of integrity and truth and the people’s right to demand truly free, clean and honest elections,” he said.
Pimentel thanked Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, head of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, as well as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who represented him in his protest.
The new senator vowed to work with “similarly minded colleagues and cause the prosecution and jailing of those who corrupt the system.”
Pimentel said his priorities would also include the devolution of more powers to barangays and local government units, the youth and overseas Filipino workers.
“What we have gone through was not a journey for personal glory but a political combat waged for our people. I bear no one any ill will, I have no desire for vengeance. I fought for justice and got it,” he said.