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Lacson for President, Sotto for VP: Can Senators Cross Over to Malacanang?

Their tandem is cast in stone.
by Erwin Colcol
Jul 13, 2021
Photo/s: Senate of the Philippines/Facebook

It's a tandem that's "cast in stone". Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Tito Sotto are on the brink of announcing their candidacies for president and vice president, respectively, in next year's elections, treading a path that has delivered mixed and heartbreaking results for their colleagues.

It will be take two for Lacson, 73, should he run for president in 2022. He placed third in the 2004 elections, when he was just three years into his first six-year term in the Senate. The former chief of the Philippine National Police said it would be the presidency or retirement for him next year.

Sotto, 72, will go higher in the line of succession should he win as vice president. He has been in and out of the Senate since the early 1990s, when he jumped to lawmaking from vice mayor of Quezon City. All throughout, he remains visible on "Eat Bulaga", the immortal noontime show that he hosts as one-third of comedic trio TVJ.

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The Lacson-Sotto ticket shows how the Senate is launching pad for politicians aspiring to become president or vice president, said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform.

The challenge is to "demonstrate the capability beyond [being a] simple senator,” Casiple said. In the case of Lacson and Sotto, a “critical mass” of support is also important.


A Lacson-Sotto ticket will also provide a third force to the administration and opposition divide. In the case of the 2022 elections, it's whoever is annointed by President Rodrigo Duterte and Vice President Leni Robredo if she's running.

The last senator to be elected president was the late Noynoy Aquino in 2010, who rode a wave of public sympathy following the death of his mother, former President Cory Aquino the year before.

In 2016, three senators lost to President Rodrigo Duterte -- the late Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Mar Roxas and Grace Poe, who is rumored to be running again next year. Three senators also lost to Vice President Leni Robredo -- Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano and Gregorio Honasan.

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Meet Senator Ping and Tito Sen

Lacson served in the anti-crime superbody PACC of the mid 1990s that was headed by Vice President Joseph Estrada. It was also there that he faced his biggest controversy -- the alleged rubout of Kuratong Baleleng kidnap-for-ransom gang members.

He served as PNP chief under the Estrada presidency making sure that troops were as serious about keeping trim wasitlines like their boss as they were about fighting crime. He first won as senator in the 2001 midterm elections.

In the Senate, Lacson led several high-profile investigations on alleged corruption in the Arroyo government that dragged then First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, who allegedly hid his wealth under the alias Jose Pidal.

Best known for his "Eat Bulaga", the Senate President has political pedigree. His namesake and grandfather is the late Sen. Vicente Sotto. He was the first showbiz crossover to top the senatorial elections after democracy was restored in 1986, leading the pack in 1992.

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Today, Lacson and Sotto are considered veteran lawmakers of the country. Lacson has earned the reputation of being a “watchdog” of the national budget, while Sotto is a strong advocate against illegal drugs.

Do they have what it takes to win?

A strong backing from a political party, coupled with grassroots support are essential to winning a national election, Casiple said. Popularity is not enough.

Walang nanalo on the basis ng personal na posisyon lang. Natatalo usually yan kapag yung kalaban ay organisado at may resources,” Casiple said.

Silang dalawa (Lacson and Sotto), they will have to start almost from scratch,” he said.

For one, Casiple said that while Sotto is the chairman of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the party may not automatically support his possible vice presidential bid. Lacson, on the other hand, is currently not affiliated with any political party.

So importante yung question ng political party na may ongoing talaga na record na nagpapanalo. Pero sa kanilang case, kung NPC lang ang lumitaw sa tabi nila, that's not yet a guarantee,” he added.

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The two senators' ongoing consultative tour means they are gauging support for a possible 2022 campagn, the political analyst said. “Hindi [ito] para manalo ha, ang usapin pa lang ngayon ay kung may serious na chance ba kung tatakbo sila,” he said.

Sotto earlier said that adopting Lacson as the NPC’s standard bearer for the 2022 elections is a “possibility,” although he could not dictate the will of the party.

They need support that's also cast in stone

Like their commitment to each other, Lacson and Sotto need to make sure that the support they gather during the consultative meetings will be good until the campaign, Casiple said.

“[Lacson and Sotto] have to stress kung ano yung madudulot nila sa mga kinakausap nila. Kasi negotiations yan, hindi naman yan magbibigay ng suporta sayo kung wala naman makukuha yung magbibigay,” he said.

It’s the playbook that President Rodrigo Duterte used in his 2016 presidential campaign, according to the political analyst. While the then-Davao City mayor was going around asking people about his proposed federalism, he was already negotiating with local leaders on their potential role in his administration should he win.

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After that, lumaki yung chances niya at in fact ang nagpanalo sa kanya ay yung mga nagbigay sa kanya ng suporta sa ibang region,” Casiple said.

“Yung ikot niyang yun, malaki ang tulong. Yung ginagawa ng dalawa (Lacson and Sotto), ganyan din yan,” he added.

For now, Sotto said he and Lacson would announce their final decision about running in the 2022 elections on Aug. 5.

For Casiple, the upcoming announcement from Lacson and Sotto only means one thing: “May confidence sila na they have enough votes to start their campaign.”

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