MANILA – Fellow former student activists on Saturday night honored Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and other government officials for their “commitment and consistency” in public service at a thanksgiving dinner entitled “Celebrating the Samasa Brand of Public Service: Commitment and Consistency.”
At the event that also celebrated the victory of Vice President Leni Robredo over the son of the former dictator, Pangilinan said the recognition is a “very touching honor for me, I’ve had many. But coming from Samasa, it’s more important to me, it’s more valuable to me.”
Samasa or Sandigan para sa Mag-Aaral at Sambayanan, a student political party in the University of the Philippines-Diliman during the 1980s at the height of the fight against Martial Law, was also at the forefront in the fight against the election of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as vice president in the May 2016 vote.
Pangilinan, who ran and won in various college and university student council positions under the Samasa banner, said: “Natutunan ko ang aking pamamahala, pamumuno, pananagutan mula sa pagiging aktibista (What I learned in administration, leadership, and responsibility started from my student activism).”
A major consideration in every decision he had to make included this important question: “Can I explain this to my constituency? I used to be UP student council president. If I cannot explain my decisions to those I campaigned with, to those who offered their lives to a cause larger than ourselves, for the love of our country. If I cannot explain it to them, then there’s no reason, no business for me making this decision. It was haunting in a sense. A good haunting.”
“Every decision since, the question has been: Nasaan ang tao? Nasaan ang taumbayan? Nasaan ang paninindigan? Nasaan ang tunay na pagbabago, doon tayo. That is why, lagi, lagi, kapag nariyan na ang pagsubok, nariyan ang pagpapasiya, nariyan na ang oras de peligro, ang tanong, ‘Paano ko maipapaliwanag ito sa mga nakasama ko sa UP? Kasama sa pakikibaka? Kasama ko sa pagmartsa? Dahil kung babatikusin ako at tututulan, di dapat tayo magpasya sa ganung paraan’ (Where are the people? Where is the nation? Where are the principles? Where is the real change, that’s where we are. That is why, always, always, when we are being tested, or asked to make a crucial decision, or in the hour of danger, the question is, ‘How do I explain this to my comrades in UP? My companions in the struggle? My fellow street parliamentarians? If they will criticize and oppose me, we should not decide that way’).”
“That is why this is precious,” he said of the Samasa honor certificate, “because it is a reiteration [of that commitment]…an inspiration as I enter my third term as senator.”
Like Robredo, Pangilinan said the 1983 assassination of his fellow Upsilonian fraternity brother Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was a turning point for him, inspiring him to join the student movement.
If the dictator had not been ousted in 1986, Pangilinan said he would’ve joined the rebels in the hills to continue fighting the repression and injustice of that era. But the restoration of elite democracy allowed him to run and win as Quezon City councilor in 1988. He later ran and won as senator in 2001 and again in 2007.
Pangilinan, who spoke last among the honorees, asked his fellow former student activists: “Why are we all here? What is this all for? Why did we organize [for Leni] in the last elections? All of us here, at one point in our lives, we were willing to die for this country. If we still are, wonderful. Because as we see the nation, as the events unfold, we still have a lot to do.
“When we took a stand 30 years ago, when we were willing to sacrifice our lives for our nation, there was a cause we were committed to and our cause was just. Today, our cause is still just. Our cause is still a cause worth dying for.
“I must admit, given how jaded perhaps many of us are. Matanda na tayo. Pagod na tayo (We are old. We are tired). We’ve done our share…In the final analysis, we all love our country. Problems are still there. The challenges are still serious.
“This experience with Leni, this campaign of Samasa is just the beginning. And it ought to be. We have more campaigns to come. In 20 years, 25 years from now, when we are in our 70s or 80s, when we are in our death bed, finally, we will say, the country is on the right track because we all committed, because we all sacrificed to move our nation forward. We have 25, 30 years. If you think the last 30 years happened so fast because we were student activists 30 years ago, mas mabilis ang susunod na tatlumpung taon. Wala na tayong oras pang magpagewang-gewang (the next 30 years will happen faster. We don’t have time to dilly-dally).
“Kinakailangan manindigan, kinakailangan tumaya para sa pagdating na ililipat na natin ang tungkulin sa susunod na henerasyon, masasabi natin sa bawat isa, ‘Tumaya pa rin tayo, nanindigan pa rin tayo, kumilos pa rin tayo (We need make a commitment, we need to make our bets so that when it is time to pass the job on to the next generation, we can say to each other, ‘We placed our bet, we committed, we acted).”
The other honorees included Quezon City Rep. Kit Belmonte, Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, Las Pinas Rep. Zardi Abellera, Zambales Rep. Cheryl Deloso-Montalla, former National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Renan Dalisay, National Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) head Arnel Casanova, Mayor Eric Constantino of Abra de Ilog in Occidental Mindoro and his wife and also former mayor of the town Maria Gloria, and former Akbayan party-list Rep. Barry Gutierrez.
The thanksgiving party “marks both the culmination of our Never Again campaign during the last elections, and a commencement of our continuing campaign against historical revisionism,” said Samasa in its invitation to its members.