Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan has taken the place of former Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya as acting president of the Liberal Party until party elections are held. Pangilinan succeeds both Abaya, as acting president, and former Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, who was party president on leave since 2014.
“Malaking hamon ang paghirang na ito. Alam ko at tinatanggap ang mga tungkuling kaakibat nito. I am humbled by the designation. I realize the weight of the position and I accept the responsibilities it entails. I am responding to this call to serve the people,” said Pangilinan.
Prior to his new designation, Pangilinan was LP’s immediate past vice president.
Vice President Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo and several LP senators, congressmen, and local officials won in the last elections. But given a weak ideological political party system in the Philippines, a number of LP members have moved to the ruling party.
“Sa mga pagkakataong ganito, nalalaman natin kung sino talaga ang may matibay na pagkaunawa hindi lang sa mga prinsipyo ng partido kundi maging sa mga tungkulin ng isang partidong wala sa poder. We need to work within the current situation to redefine ourselves as a party: How can we as a party work on addressing poverty, joblessness, and the high prices of basic necessities,” said Pangilinan.
“We have our individual and collective roles in nation-building. Hindi tayo magiging hadlang sa mabubuting plano at gawain ng Duterte administration para sa bayan, tulad ng kanyang mga anti-poverty programs, pro-labor and massive infrastructure plans, support for farmers and fisher folks, particularly the coco levy bill for coconut farmers, peace-building initiatives, and the focus to develop Mindanao,” said Pangilinan.
“Huhugot tayo ng mga aral at inspirasyon mula sa ating ninuno sa Liberal Party na si yumaong Senate President Jovito Salonga at ang aktibo pa ring si dating Senator Wigberto Tanada, at itutuloy ang pagpuna sa mga nakikita nating hindi tama tulad ng papalaki pang bilang ng patayan bunga ng anti-drug war at ng planong paglibing ng dating diktador sa Libingan ng mga Bayani,” he said.
“Magtanim tayo, hindi ng galit o sama ng loob, kundi ng pag-asa at mga polisiya at programang tama para sa bayan. Tapos na ang eleksyon. Palitan na natin ang ‘tards’ ng ‘pards’ at ‘mards’. Sama-sama tayong kumilos tungo sa isang bansang may malasakit sa kapwa, katarungan, at tunay na kalayaan — kalayaan mula sa kahirapan, katiwalian, at takot,” said Pangilinan.
In the designation letter, Abaya, immediate past acting president of the party, said: “I delegate unto the OIC President such powers necessary and incidental to safeguarding the successful election of a new set of party officers in a National Directorate meeting, to be held on or before the 31st of March 2017.”
The powers of the party president include calling meetings of the various LP bodies; holding consultations with the party membership, the civil society, academe, and international stakeholders; creating search committees to scout for new members; acting on applications for membership; and recommending amendments to the Party Constitution for approval of the National Directorate, among others.
LP president on leave Roxas also signed the designation letter and Occidental Mindoro Congresswoman Josephine Ramirez-Sato, acting secretary-general, witnessed the signing.
PANGILINAN’S POLITICAL HISTORY
Pangilinan started his political career as a student activist in the dying days of martial law. He was elected councilor of the UP Diliman Student Council in 1985, on the eve of the People Power EDSA uprising, and then as its chairperson the following year. He fought against human rights abuses, corruption, and other social ills that martial law worsened. This experience and belief that progressive ideas and actions have a place in Philippine politics have grounded and guided him since.
While studying to become a lawyer in 1988, he became the youngest elected city councilor of Quezon City. Later, he went to the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government and earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration as an Edward S. Mason Fellow in 1998.
In 2001, he ran for the Senate with the battle cry, “Kumilos Kasama si Kiko”, believing that committed leaders need equally engaged citizens for genuine and lasting change. Through the years, the programs and legislative measures he supported and pushed have sought to harness people power, and are anchored on reform and change.
In his first term at the Senate, he headed the Senate Committees on Ethics, Education, Housing, and Justice, and Blue Ribbon. He authored and pushed for the passage of the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act, and laws that significantly increased the salaries and benefits of judges and prosecutors; this halved the vacancies in the position for judges across the country from 32% to 16%, partially addressing the systemic problem of turtle-paced judicial process.
Also in response to the spate of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances during the Arroyo administration, Pangilinan proposed the landmark Joint Judicial Executive Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council (JJELACC). His brainchild became a forum for the three branches of government to strengthen consultation and coordination in upholding the rule of law. By 2008 and with the convening of JJELACC, the budget for the judiciary and the country’s system of justice was increased by P3 billion. He made the same call during the Aquino administration, and again now during the Duterte administration.
Only three years after winning his first national elective post, Pangilinan became Senate majority leader in 2004; he was reelected majority leader in 2007 after his historic reelection as senator. As the political lines between administration and opposition were unclear, Pangilinan chose to run for reelection on his own. He became the first incumbent to run as an independent and win, even landing in the Top 5 when many branded his move as “political suicide”. In his second term, he shepherded into law the UP Charter. As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food and the Senate Committee on Social Justice and Rural Development, he was instrumental in convening AF2025 (Agriculture and Fisheries 2025), a summit that paved the way for increasing the agriculture budget by 52% in 2012. His active partnership with agriculture and fisheries stakeholders also led to Sagip Saka, an advocacy program that has raised the incomes of participant-farmers by modernizing agriculture processes from pre- to post-production.
In May 2014, he was appointed Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization by President Benigno Aquino III, taking charge of four agencies transferred to the Office of the President: the National Food Authority (NFA), the National Irrigation Administration, the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA), and the Philippine Coconut Authority. During his term, he was able to stabilize the price of rice by instituting greater transparency and competition in the NFA’s rice importation process; this cut down the average per metric ton price of rice imports by as much as $120 per ton thus saving the government some P6 billion in a year. He was also able to curb “cocolisap” infestation, cause the NEDA approval of P30 billion worth of irrigation projects, double the budget and staff complement of the FPA to meet the increasing regulatory demands of the industry, and have the coco levy bill passed in the House of Representatives, among others.
He ran again for a Senate seat following his resignation from the Cabinet in October 2015, in a race he won in the May 2016 national elections. On his third Senate term, he vows to uphold “serbisyong tapat at totoo” with a focus on increasing incomes and improving the well-being of farmers and fisher folk, and in keeping with a track record that shows measurable results.