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Speech of Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, September 27, 2015

Mr. and Mrs. Pepe and Evelyn Pestaño, members of the Pestaño family and their relatives and loved ones, and friends of Phillip and the Pestaño family, members of the Philippine Military Academy “Maalab” Class of 1993, officers and members of the Philippine Navy, fellow civil servants, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning to all of you.

 On this occasion, we honor and remember the life of a brave, young navy officer, gone too soon at the very young age of 24. Phillip Andrew Pestaño was born on January 1, 1972 in Mandaue City, to parents Felipe and Evelyn Pestaño. He later joined the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and graduated as an Ensign in the Philippine Navy in 1993. In 1995, Ensign Pestaño served as a cargo master on board the BRP Bacolod City, up to the time of his death on September 27, 1995.

Phillip was on the eve of getting married, with his whole life and career ahead of him – and even when his parents pleaded with him to resign from the Navy, for fear that he would come to harm, he refused, stating: “kawawa naman ang bayan”.

Today, on the 20th anniversary of his passing, we remember the courage of one young man, who firmly disapproved of cargoes of illegally cut logs, dangerous drugs, and contraband. Despite the promise of financial reward from complicity in such a big but illegal business and the threatening knowledge that what was happening involved powerful people, Phillip did not budge. He was not afraid to take a stand against dishonesty and graft and corruption, fully aware that he was placing his life on the line.

You - Phillip’s family and loved ones, his classmates and close friends - have undergone a long and arduous journey, bravely gathering evidence and pushing for the prosecution of those behind Phillip’s untimely death.

The pursuit for justice and redress is never an easy road to take. In our country, it is one filled with much frustration, cynicism, and weariness, and often takes a toll on our faith in our justice system. It takes an incredible amount of persistence and strength for anyone, let alone those who have lost loved ones, to take up the cudgels and fight for the attainment of true and genuine justice, however elusive it may be.

[Here are some recent reports about our criminal justice system:

(1)     It took 14 years and four judges, but justice was finally served to the families of kidnap-slay victims who were abducted and killed in 2000 when the Manila RTC finally convicted the accused in December 2014;

(2)     Six men and a woman were found guilty by the Quezon City RTC in August of this year of kidnapping a shoe factory owner, his wife and their house help in Quezon City 18 years ago for a P400,000 ransom;]

After a seemingly endless wait of twenty years, the latest decision of the Court of Appeals gives us reason to hope that the current proceedings before the trial court against those allegedly behind Phillip’s death will see the light of truth and the way of justice - and a final resolution to the crusade that you - his family and loved ones - have fought for, very long and very hard.

It took me four years and two months of struggle through my election protest to vindicate the people’s true choice of senator in the 2007 elections. Your struggle makes my own struggle look puny and easy.

You are not alone in your struggle for justice. I also did and so have countless others. So, let us not lose hope in our justice system. As my own struggle and countless many others have shown, the attainment of justice may be long, hard, and painful, but with persistence, perseverance, diligence and faith in the Almighty, it can be done!

Let Phillip Pestaño’s selfless sacrifice and the war he waged against corruption, which has now been carried on by his parents for over two decades, be the finest example of how we cannot and should not lose faith in our sense of justice even if its wheels grind exceedingly slow. In the words of Lois McMaster Bujold : “the dead cannot cry out for justice. It is the duty of the living to do so for them.”

Let us be obsessed with Justice so that we may inspire others to also pursue Justice in our beloved land no matter how difficult the quest for Justice is.

For my part, as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I am prioritizing measures that would speed up the dispensation of justice, eliminate graft and corruption, and strengthen civil liberties.

As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation, I am committed to making sure that election results reflect the true will of the people, and to make running in elections not too expensive in order to level the playing field and give all Filipinos equal opportunities for public service.

Let us also all be aware of the benefits of honest and good governance. Let honest and good governance be part of our aspirations as a people. Therefore, let us help each other to ensure that there should be no return to the dark and corrupt ways of the past.

To Mr. and Mrs. Pestaño, your son has given the ultimate sacrifice for his country and for what he believed in. He will always be remembered as a credit to the uniform he wore, a fearless advocate for truth and justice, and above all - a most beloved son.

I end by quoting the words of W. Clement Stone : “Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”

I have my own version, which I came up with after my own struggle with our justice system: “PAG NASA TAMA KA, NEVER GIVE UP!”

As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights and as a Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, I will actively monitor the progress of the case of Navy Ensign Phillip Andrew Pestaño who was killed in the line of duty on September 27, 1995.

Thank you very much and once again a very good morning to all of you. 


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