MANILA, Philippines – In 1990, Henrietta “Tita” de Villa and her husband were waiting for their flight to Hong Kong at Ninoy Aquino International Airport when she spotted her classmate Priscila Pacheco and her husband Reynaldo “Nandy” Pacheco in the crowd of seated passengers.
No sooner had they warmed to this chance encounter than Nandy launched into a heated conversation about the dangers posed by the proliferation of guns and the need for a “gunless society”, as De Villa l would later write in his introduction to the book, “Nandy Pacheco: The Man Behind the Gunless Society,” published in 2018.
“Tenacity for a good cause”
“As he spoke, Nandy’s eyes were shining and he could barely catch his breath, his enthusiasm was overflowing,” said De Villa, the country’s ambassador to the Vatican from 1996 to 2002. “Indeed, he was the defender the most fiery of any cause. I had never met, seen and heard.”
The Gunless Society founder, who had pushed for a total gun ban since the late 1980s and then sought to introduce reform in politics, died of a heart attack on Friday. He was 89 years old.
“Nandy Pacheco was a passionate, tireless and persistent activist. His idea of a gun-free society was, and still is, a very sensible approach to achieving peace in our communities. It is achievable. It needed the impetus of legislation,” Santiago Dumlao, who ran for president in 1998 with Pacheco as his running mate, told the Inquirer in a text message.
“He is an example of a Filipino whose tenacity for a good cause…was unparalleled and most worthy. It was his strong Christian faith that mobilized him to the end. We Filipinos, we’re blessed to have had a Nandy Pacheco,’ Dumlao added.
In 1987, alarmed by news of random shootings, Nandy, a lawyer and then chief information officer for the Asian Development Bank, and several friends, including national artist F. Sionil Jose, formed Nature, or National Action for Total Uplift and Restoration of the Environment, to promote respect for life, a safe environment and good stewardship.
Nature soon gave birth to the Gunless Society, which envisioned a Filipino society where only soldiers, police, and other law enforcement could carry guns in public while on duty and in uniform.
As a young boy, Nandy experienced the horrors of World War II. It was very early on that he realized the absurdity of the shooting deaths.
In 1991, following the murders of aspiring model Maureen Hultman and her friend Roland John Chapman by Claudio Teehankee Jr. in a Makati village, and young executive Eldon Maguan by Rolito Go in a traffic altercation in San Juan, Nandy and his friends pushed for a total gun ban.
This advocacy won support from the public and from then-President Corazon Aquino, who called the 1991 Anti-Lethal Weapons Bill proposal urgent.
This measure was a consolidation of Senate Bill No. 1792, sponsored by Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Alberto Romulo, and House Bill No. 34057, sponsored by Sorsogon Rep. Bonifacio Gillego. Both bills were inspired by Nandy’s Gunless Society.
The Senate passed the measure, but it was defeated by the House Committee on Public Order and Security, chaired by the president’s brother, then Tarlac Rep. Jose Cojuangco.
Nandy was unfazed. He decided to take his campaign to the next level.
In the 1998 general elections, Dumlao and Nandy teamed up to run for President and Vice President respectively under the Partido Bago, on a platform of “Put God First” and “Biyaya Economics”.
But they lost to popular Joseph Estrada who won as president and former senatorial topnotcher Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who won as vice president.
Pacheco then launched Ang Kapatiran, or Alliance for the Common Good, a political party based on the teachings of the Catholic Church. The party gained public support from some bishops and was accredited by the Elections Committee in 2004.
Ang Kapatiran listed gastroenterologist Martin Bautista, tax lawyer Adrian Sison and former MP Zosimo Jesus Paredes II as his senatorial bets in the 2007 midterm elections; the former municipal councilor of Olongapo, JC de los Reyes, as a presidential candidate in the 2010 general elections; and Delos Reyes, Lito David and Marwil Llasos as senatorial candidates in the 2013 midterm elections.
Ang Kapatiran somehow captured the public’s imagination, but that was not enough to give victory to one of his candidates.
The party boycotted the 2016 election in which Rodrigo Duterte won the presidency, as it pushed for a move to a parliamentary-federal system of government.
“The example of the laity”
In a September 21, 2011 commentary for the Inquirer titled “Choosing someone for canonization,” humanitarian and former Jesuit priest Denis Murphy wrote, “Where is such a man in Filipino society? If prompted, many might point to Nandy Pacheco. Remember that we are not choosing here the man we think is best suited for holiness, but rather the one we think the Church could choose as an example of the lay people she seeks for her work in the world. ”
Nandy is survived by his wife Priscila, children Ma. Rosario Victoria, Reynaldo Jr., Roberto and Cecilia, stepchildren and grandchildren.
His wake is at the Haven of Angels Memorial Chapels & Crematorium, Km. 26 Sumulong Highway, Barangay Sta. Cruz, Antipolo City, through Tuesday, 2-8 p.m. Funeral Mass will be held Wednesday at Christ the King Parish, Greenmeadows, Quezon City, at 2 p.m.
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