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For senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, answering the call to be the running mate of presidential candidate and incumbent Vice President Leni Robredo at this year's elections entails the risk of his long-running political career coming to an abrupt end.
Serving as a senator since 2016, and previously from 2001 to 2013, the lawyer is the current president of the Liberal Party. He announced his candidacy alongside Robredo on October 7, setting aside any senatorial re-election bid.
As it is, since he announced his VP bid, Pangilinan has had to fend off alleged defamation and supposedly false claims, something Robredo has long had experience in.
In mid-February, Pangilinan announced that he had filed a cyber libel complaint against yet another YouTube channel. This is in addition to two similar suits he filed last year against “Latest Chika” and “Starlet” YouTube channels for malicious videos. The social media platform has since taken them down.
Long political career
In 1988, Pangilinan was elected as the youngest councilor of Quezon City. In 1992, he unsuccessfully ran in the city's congressional elections.
Pangilinan, 58, was elected to the Senate in 2001 and was first elected as Senate majority leader in 2004. He also successfully campaigned for re-election in 2007.
One of Pangilinan's most notable achievements is the creation of the Judicial Executive Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council in 2008. Comprising the President, Senate President, House Speaker, and Chief Justice, it is a forum for the three branches of government to strengthen consultation and coordination in upholding the rule of law.
Pangilinan is known for his strong support of Filipino farmers, and did much to elevate their industry such as modernizing agricultural processes.
Inspired by the farmers he had met, Pangilinan became a full-time organic farmer for a year after the end of his second Senate term. He grew a range of vegetables and herbs after acquiring the Sweet Spring Country Farm with his actress wife Sharon Cuneta.
Pangilinan had also been pushing for the abolition of the death penalty and demanding accountability among public officials through the enactment of the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
In May 2014, Pangilinan was appointed as Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, a Cabinet-level position, by then-President Benigno Aquino III. Pangilinan resigned from the post in 2015 to run for senator again the next year.
Champion of food security
For his election platform, Pangilinan said he would focus on food security, controlling the pandemic, and addressing corruption.
In a Rappler Talk interview in October last year, the so-called "food security czar" said, "I think that is one of the key critical problems that COVID has brought upon us – hunger, unprecedented hunger, unprecedented unemployment. And hunger is really a food security issue.
"All the more now we will be able to focus our energy and our efforts into addressing hunger and that requires strengthening the support and interventions so that our farmers and fisherfolk can increase their yields."
Pangilinan was born on August 24, 1963, to engineer and entrepreneur Donato Tongol Pangilinan Jr. and teacher Emma Monasterial Nepomuceno. He has eight siblings.
During his education at the University of the Philippines Diliman, Pangilinan majored in comparative literature and earned his Bachelor of Arts in English. He was also a varsity athlete for the UP Fighting Maroons Volleyball team. He later acquired his Bachelor of Laws from the University of the Philippines College of Law.
In 1997, Pangilinan pursued and obtained his Master of Public Administration at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
Pangilinan has two daughters and an adopted son with Cuneta. He also legally adopted Cuneta's daughter, actress and singer KC Concepcion.
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