MANILA — Aquilino Pimentel Jr., a Filipino lawmaker who helped orchestrate the 1986 People Power Revolution that overturned more than a decade of martial law and ended the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, died on Sunday in Manila. He was 85.
The cause was lymphoma, said a spokesman for his son Aquilino Pimentel III, the president of the Philippines Senate.
Mr. Pimentel was a human rights lawyer who in a long political career served as mayor of the southern city of Cagayan de Oro, founded a political party and spent decades in the Senate, where he, too, rose to the rank of president. He became a household name in the Philippines when he organized opposition to the Marcos regime.
Mr. Marcos, who governed the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, declared martial law in 1972, ushering in one-man rule for the next 14 years. The regime was marked by corruption, brutality and the excesses of his wife, Imelda Marcos.
Mr. Pimentel, known as Nene, was imprisoned three times for expressing his opposition to the president and martial law.
In 1982, he, along with Benigno Aquino, founded the opposition party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino–Lakas ng Bayan, more commonly known as PDP–Laban. The assassination of Mr. Aquino by Marcos forces in 1983 sparked the popular uprising that became known as the People Power Revolution.
Senator Leila de Lima, a critic of the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, said in a statement that Mr. Pimentel was one of the country’s “most respected statesmen.”
“He may be gone, but his legacy of wisdom in defending democracy will live forever in the hearts of the people,” Ms. de Lima said.
Mr. Pimentel rose to national prominence as a young politician in the 1970s after he was chosen to be a delegate to the 1971 constitutional convention.
He was first imprisoned, along with other vocal opponents of Mr. Marcos, in 1973. He was jailed twice more in the succeeding years.
Mr. Pimentel was elected mayor of Cagayan de Oro in 1980 but was falsely charged by Mr. Marcos with tampering with the elections. He was freed after nationalist lawyers successfully defended his case.
He was elected to the Senate in 1987, beginning a career of more than two decades there. He served as the Senate’s president from 2000 to 2001, presiding over the botched impeachment hearing of Joseph Estrada, the president of the Philippines at the time.
Mr. Pimentel surprised some supporters by backing the election of Mr. Duterte as president in 2016. Since taking office, Mr. Duterte has led a crackdown on civil liberties and authorized the police to carry out a war on drugs that has left thousands of people dead.
Mr. Duterte has also led a campaign to rehabilitate the Marcos legacy and has spoken openly about the advantages of having a dictator run the country.
Mr. Pimentel initially defended his support for Mr. Duterte, arguing in favor of a Filipino from the south rising to the country’s highest office. But in 2016, when Mr. Duterte declared martial law across Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, in response to an Islamic State assault on the city of Marawi, Mr. Pimentel stood up to the president.
In making an economic case to lift martial law, he told the Filipino network ABS-CBN: “How can investors venture into a chaotic area? For there to be development, it should be clear to the public that not all of Mindanao is chaotic.”
Aquilino Quilinging Pimentel Jr. was born on Dec. 11, 1933, in Claveria in Northern Mindanao, to Aquilino Sr. and Petra Quilinging Pimentel, according to online biographies. He graduated from Xavier University, a Jesuit institution, in Northern Mindanao.
In addition to his son, Mr. Pimentel is survived by his wife, Lourdes dela Llana; another son, Aquilino Pimentel IV; and three daughters, Teresa Lourdes Pimentel, Lorraine Marie Pimentel and Gwendolyn Gana, who is a commissioner of the independent Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines.
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