It’s not really the early-bird-catches-the-worm aphorism as Manny Dooc writes in his Business Mirror piece “The Lacson-Sotto tandem” which allies in the face of the Lacson-Sotto tandem but more of a calculated risk in taking on the daunting challenge of running for the two highest posts in the land. Dooc does make an important point nonetheless…
When others hem and haw and disavow any ambition to seek the top two positions only to make a complete turnaround when the filing for the candidacy begins, the Lacson and Sotto tandem is more forthright and open with their goals. Lacson had been there before. In 2004, he ran for president as an independent candidate when he was disowned by his own party, the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino. Despite being partyless, Lacson finished third garnering more than 10 percent of the total votes cast. He edged out Senator Raul Roco and Bro. Eddie Villanueva who wound up fourth and fifth, respectively, in that presidential derby.
Recall in 2015, the news cycle was occupied by candidates who wanted to get then President Noynoy Aquino’s anointment. There was Grace Poe and Alan Peter Cayetano in the headlines. The former because of the case questioning her citizenship while the latter was jockeying to become then Liberal Party presidential bet Mar Roxas’s running mate as gratuity for his demolition job on then Vice President Jejomar Binay who also made a bid for the presidency. The situation is different today not only because of the pandemic but also due to the changed political landscape. President Rodrigo Duterte broke the political template with the strategy he employed in 2015. It was political striptease at its best. When he finally decided to run, he seized control of the news cycle with his disruptive style.
So far, there is nothing disruptive about the manner with which Senators Ping Lacson and Tito Sotto are going about their candidacies. Sotto has gone all-in with his political gamble. The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) has broken with administration. It was announced last week that it will not be renewing its alliance with Hugpong ng Pagbabago. Sotto won’t be ousted as Senate President this late in the game but the President took a dig at him last Saturday at the inauguration of the new Clark Airport Terminal by referring to him as “Vice-President Vicente Sotto”.
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The public has to realize that it’s not easy to come to a decision to challenge any incumbent, specially a hugely popular one. This comes with a lot of risk. But Sotto is throwing it all in because he has reached the apex of his political career. He did the same in 2004 when he cast his lot with then presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr (FPJ). Ironically, that was the same year Lacson also broke from the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) to run as an independent candidate for president with Carlos Padilla as his running mate. Politics is about timing and few are given second chances. What is different today is the traditional opposition is in its death throes. If left on its own, the administration will run roughshod over the opposition. It wouldn’t be much of a competition but more of a massacre at the polls. This is what he Lacson-Sotto tandem aims to achieve; give the voters an option.
Lacson-Sotto brings a wealth of track-record and experience to the table. Ping has his weakness not in leadership and work ethic but more in his connecting with the public. He does not joke around. His demeanor is stern. He is all business. He keeps his personal life private though it has been exposed in the past then weaponized against him. He has survived an organized vilification campaign which led to his becoming a fugitive. On the other hand, there is Tito Sen with his Tito, Vic and Joey and Eat Bulaga roots. The Dabarkads are a formidable force since they are the base of the longest-running noontime show in the country. This is what got him elected to the Senate four times. His political provenance has roots in Cebu which is one of the most vote-rich provinces in the country. The province with the most number of voters is Cavite where Lacson traces his roots in Imus. Sotto has been registering with voters in the Vice-Presidential race with double-digit ratings which is the same with his job approval as Senate President. Lacson finds himself in the fringes of the margin for error but this is due to public perception. This can still be changed since he has crossed his Rubicon. It falls on him to convince the public why he should be the next President of the Philippines.
The Lacson-Sotto tandem’s advantage is in their ability to appeal to the middle-of-the-road voters who identify neither with the administration nor with the opposition. Recently released Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) data shows the three most populous regions as the National Capital Region (NCR), Region 3 and Region 4-A. The ten most vote-rich provinces are in the order of number of voters are Cavite, Rizal, Laguna, Bulacan, Pampanga, Batangas, Cebu, Bataan and La Union. A digital campaign can target specific demographic parameters to a degree not possible in the past.
The Lacson-Sotto tandem has a clearer path to a possible victory than the opposition will ever have in this race. Voters who are tired of the old narrative being peddled by the traditional opposition will see Lacson-Sotto as an opportunity to look at the issues from a fresh perspective. With the possibility of the 2022 race having only three candidates at most, it may well become a referendum on the Duterte administration. Do voters want more of the same or do they want a change? This is why it is essential that this election be issues-based and not personality-based. The future of our country depends on it in these times where the only certainty is uncertainty.
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