SENATOR FRANCIS “KIKO” PANGILINAN
From his time as a student activist up to his current stature as an independent in the Senate of the Philippines, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan has had no qualms on being a maverick, proving time and again that independent thought, principle, and vision has a place in Philippine politics.
Over 20 years ago, Kiko began his fight against human rights violations, corruption, and other social ills as Chairman of the UP Diliman Student Council. He was later appointed the first UP Student Regent after Martial Law by the late former President Corazon C. Aquino.
When democratic spaces in the country opened up soon after that, he served as Councilor of the 4th district of Quezon City, the youngest ever to do so at age 23. A few years later, the young activist Kiko became Atty. Kiko as he finished his law studies at the University of the Philippines.
Truly a trailblazer, Kiko established the National Movement of Young Legislators (NMYL) in 1992 and was also a strong proponent for reforms through the ‘90s. In 1998, he graduated with a Master of Public Administration as an Edward S. Mason Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government of Harvard University.
In 2001 Kiko ran for the Senate with the battlecry, “Kumilos kasama si Kiko,” believing that only when citizens actively participate in governance together with committed leaders can genuine change be effected. For him it was neither an empty slogan nor a catchy sound bite, but a core belief which he went on to actualize. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Housing in 2001 he was the first senator to allocate public funds for Gawad Kalinga homes, paving the way for nationwide support for GK across all sectors. As Chairman of the Justice Committee and a champion of judiciary reforms, he mobilized the legal community in instituting reforms in the justice system, which led to landmark pieces of legislation, such as: the doubling of the pay of judges and justices, increasing compensation of prosecutors, and the creation of his brainchild, the Judiciacy Executive Legislative Advisory Council, or the JELACC. As Chairman of the Education Committee, he allocated funds in support of the nationwide school-building program of the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, through which classrooms were built at half the usual cost of government-funded classrooms.
A true advocate for good governance and reform, Sen. Kiko also authored many landmark bills and laws that have strengthened democratic institutions and empowered the citizenry. He has also institutionalized programs serving the youth (Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations or TAYO), enterprise developers and SMEs (Promoting Regional Opportunities for Enterprise and Livelihood Development or PROPEL), students (scholarships), young legislators (NMYL), the judiciary (Bantay Korte Suprema and Juvenile Justice Advocacy Group), and other sectors.
Sen. Kiko was also the longest-serving majority leader since the restoration of democracy, from February 2004 to November 2008, proving the confidence that his Senate colleagues have bestowed upon him. In 2007, he became the first incumbent to run as an independent and win, even landing in the Top 5 when others branded his moved as “political suicide”.
A high point in his dedication to serve the country came when, at the thick of the fight for the second-highest office in the land, he gave up his own bid in order to unite the bulk of progressive forces behind the candidacy of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. Sen. Kiko Pangilinan became the first nationally elected official to throw his support for Aquino, and then gave all his effort and available resources as the campaign manager of the Liberal Party Senate slate for the game-changing May 2010 elections. He is currently the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food and the Senate Committee on Social Justice and Rural Development.