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Jan 27th
Home Sections Politics Revisiting Raul Roco and Nene Pimentel: How They Lost the 2004 Pres Election in 2000 and 2002
Revisiting Raul Roco and Nene Pimentel: How They Lost the 2004 Pres Election in 2000 and 2002 PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Politics
Monday, 23 July 2007 09:27

Part I of a Three-part Series


On Aug. 5, 2007, the Filipino Nation will mark the second death anniversary of Raul Sagarbarria Roco (1941-2005). Both Mr. Roco and Sen. Aquilino (Nene) Q. Pimentel, Jr., are described by some pundits as "the best Philippine Presidents" the country never had. This writer tried his best to persuade then Senator Roco and Senate President Pimentel to plan way ahead for the 2004 presidential election but to no avail. The following is my first-person narrative of a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with two presidential timbers in the same election. This is my story on how Raul Roco and Nene Pimentel probably "lost" the 2004 presidential election in 2000 and 2002, respectively.

Let us then revisit the Honorable Raul S. Roco. I really admired the guy ever since I came to know him in San Beda College in 1962. He was five years ahead of me, but he aided the younger college editors like me, as he was once an editor-in-chief of The Bedan student publication. After earning in 1966 my AB degree, major in journalism, at San Beda, I proceeded to enroll at our alma mater’s College of Law. Uriel Rebanal (a fellow Bicolano junior law student) and I decided to create a separate school organ for the SBC School of Law. We enlisted for the project the help of our law professor Rene A. V. Saguisag (who was also a former Bedan editor) and the support of other law alumni like Mr. Roco. We pushed through successfully our project of having an official monthly newspaper for the San Beda College of Law. I came up with the name, "Bedan Barrister," and its logo. I served as its first managing editor, with Mr. Rebanal as its first editor-in-chief. (Mr. Rebanal was to finish law and practice in Oas, Albay, where he was assassinated in the 1980s as the president of the Oas Barangay Captains’ League.) The "Bedan Barrister" continues to be published to date in San Beda College.

But then I became a working student in 1967. I transferred to the Ateneo de Manila College of Law because its campus then in Padre Faura Street was just five blocks away from my place of work. And my linkages to Mr. Roco got severed until after the EDSA Revolution in 1986.

Helping Mr. Roco in Camarines Sur

When Mr. Roco was a candidate for a congressional seat in Camarines Sur in 1986, I was then the regional campaign manager for the Bicol Region of Rene Saguisag, who was then running for a seat in the Philippine Senate. With the tacit permission of Atty. Saguisag, I rallied the Saguisag volunteers for Mr. Roco and I campaigned personally for him. By my estimation, the Saguisag volunteers and I probably obtained more than 500 votes for Mr. Roco, who won his seat by some 195 votes. We spent also the modest budget given by the Saguisag Senatorial Camp for Camarines Sur for Mr. Roco’s candidacy.

Again, when Mr. Roco was a candidate for senator in 1992, I aided his candidacy by writing letters to my friends and kin in the Philippines from my temporary address in Southern California. I never asked for any favor except for a request to send "Thank You" cards for the volunteers that I recruited for him. His congressional and senate offices did not bother respectively to honor my request. But I never faulted Mr. Roco personally for ignoring my request for the Thank-You cards.

When Mr. Roco became a presidential candidate in 1998, I chose to support Mr. Joe de Venecia instead.  I told Mr. Roco in May 1997 when I met him in Los Angeles during the visit of then President Ramos that he should have asked for my support earlier because at that time I was already committed to the Pangasinense leader. I told him that it was not because his office did not send the requested "Thank You" cards to my campaign volunteers. He knew what I meant when I told him so at the City Council Chamber in the Los Angeles City Hall in 1997.

In July 2000 when then Senator Roco visited Southern CA, I attended a dinner reception for him in Orange County. The next night I was the emcee at the Manila Terrace reception for him that was hosted by Bicolano associations in Los Angeles. The following weekend, I spent some quality time with Senator Roco in New Jersey, as he was the guest speaker at the All-Ateneo Alumni Alliance-USA convention, which I also attended.

During a break at the Ateneo gathering in New Jersey, Senator Roco used my cell phone in making private calls. He and I stepped out of the hotel lobby to a garden where he made his phone calls. After he finished with his calls, Mr. Roco and I discussed his probable second run at the Philippine presidency in 2004. I kidded him that I was his lucky charm, as he never lost an election when I supported him.

The Pimentel Factor

I told Mr. Roco that I was also close to Sen. Nene Pimentel, who was an acquaintance since the Snap Election of 1986 and his PDP-Laban Party chapter in Sorsogon always courted me to join it. Senator Pimentel came to speak before the Media Breakfast Club (MBC), my flagship of an organization in Los Angeles, in 1998. At the MBC event, I reestablished the rapport with him.

I told Mr. Roco at the Secacus, NJ, Ateneo convention that I could work as executive director for his small party, the Aksyon Demokratiko, for one peso a year and begin its nationwide reorganization in preparation for the 2004 elections. I said that he ought to do – before he returned to the Philippines – was to set up in the United States the forerunner of a core group that I dubbed the "BABB" Committee. I explained to Mr. Roco that the acronym stood for "Bedans, Ateneans, Bicolnons and Boholanos." Why involve the Boholanos? Because Mrs. Sonia Roco is a scion of the Malasarte Family of Bohol.

I said also that I wanted to run for the Sorsogon governorship in 2004. He said that he would study my proposal. Two weeks later, in the first week in August 2000, Sen. Roco returned to Southern California and I met him in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was the guest speaker of the Bicol National Association of America. I reiterated my offer and he said again that he would think it over. When he returned to Manila, I sent periodic e-mails to his office and nobody cared to reply to me.

In contrast, whenever I sent an e-mail to Mr. Pimentel, who was then the Senate President, Manong Nene himself would care to answer my messages. (I could detect that it was Nene who answered my e-mails because the way he constructed his sentences -- concise but often very witty.) Then the EDSA II Revolution came and Mr. Roco became education secretary. Mr. Pimentel was able to regain his senate presidency, after resigning it in disgust over the voting of the majority of the senators against the opening of the so-called Erap envelopes.

I sent Mr. Roco an e-mail immediately after the EDSA II Revolution and I suggested to him not to accept a cabinet position from President Arroyo. Because I said that only one cabinet member successfully ran against an incumbent President and that was Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay but only after President Elpidio Quirino dismissed him from the DOD position. Obviously Mr. Roco never read my e-mail or if he read it, he disregarded it.

In March 2001, Senate President Pimentel arrived in Los Angeles and I was the only writer invited by the Cagayan de Oro association to a private reception. He was floating his plan to prepare himself for the presidential election in 2004. Two days later, I met Education Secretary Roco at the Holiday Inn at the Los Angeles Airport on his way to Manila after an engagement in Chile. I was only one of four journalists to interview him. After the interview, I asked him if he still wanted me for his political party. Again he was noncommittal. (Later a fellow Bedan told me that I did not realize that Mr. Roco and Sorsogon Gov. Raul Lee, who was to be my presumed opponent for the local election, were classmates in San Beda College of Law. This Bedan said that probably Mr. Roco could not say no to his classmate, after all I was a mere acquaintance.)

At the 2001 Cagayan de Oro function, I suggested to Mr. Pimentel’s supporters to start organizing their friends and the Filipino-American leaders who hailed from Mindanao and the Ilocos Region (as Senator Pimentel’s mother was from Ilocos Norte) into a Pimentel-for-President Movement. It was only organized in mid-2003 and by then it was perhaps too late to turn things around for Senator Pimentel.

To be continued . . .

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