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As befitting a TV personality, vice-presidential candidate and Senate President Tito Sotto launched his campaign alongside Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson in September last year via a 30-minute program that aired on major news channels and social media platforms.
The taped program was filmed in a studio reminiscent of variety programs, complete with flashing LED lights, a live band and also an audience. It was hosted by Pia Guanio-Mago, a TV presenter and co-host of the country's longest-running noontime show Eat Bulaga!, of which Sotto is also a co-host.
“Tito Sen” was first introduced with testimonials from friends and colleagues. Then, like a reality TV show contestant, he was greeted by his family backstage before the man who was once an actor, comedian and music producer graced the stage.
As with his running mate Lacson, Sotto told the audience that he wanted to address the ailing economy and tackle corruption in the government. 'Enough is enough,' Sotto said. 'It's time to act."
But can the 73-year-old Senator dazzle his way to the vice-presidency?
Vicente "Tito" Sotto was vice mayor of Quezon City from 1988 to 1992. He successfully ran for Senate in the 1992 and 1998 elections under center-right party Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) but lost his seat in the 2007 elections.
He returned to the Senate in 2010 under the conservative Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) and became Majority Leader until the end of the 15th Congress in 2013.
In 2016, Sotto was re-elected for a fourth term to the Senate, finishing in third place for the 12 contested seats. He was once more elected as Majority Leader and later became the third highest-ranking government official when he was elected as Senate President in 2018.
Sotto is known to hold conservative positions on social issues and is pro-life. Prior to his candidacy for vice president, the Senator has also consistently called for the restoration of the death penalty, which was abolished by former president Gloria Arroyo in 2006. However, both he and Lacson changed tack on capital punishment after the duo officially announced their candidacies.
Candidate's issues of focus
At their campaign launch in September, Lacson said that he and Sotto were still drawing up a "roadmap" for the government. Lacson highlighted several priorities such as the pandemic response and recovery, fighting corruption, stricter management of public funds, and engaging local governments by giving them more responsibility, autonomy and greater accountability.
Meanwhile, Sotto said the country's "more serious problem is the loss of hope."
"We need a country that values morality," he added, urging voters to put their trust on the tandem.
Like Sotto, Lacson too had called for the death penalty to be reinstated for heinous crimes while in the Senate. However, in November, both Senators now gunning for the top offices in the land said at a joint press briefing that they fear killing a wrongly convicted and innocent person.
“Saving the life of a wrongly convicted person has more weight. My view changed, I now withdraw my bill,” Lacson was reported by news site Rappler to have said.
Their plan now for those convicted of serious crimes is to jail them for life in an Alcatraz-type penitentiary.
On the martial law era, Sotto warned Filipinos to guard themselves against believing in the "lies peddled by some camps".
"History is history. It has happened. How can you forget that?" he was quoted by The Philippine Star as saying.
Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, the son and namesake of the late dictator who promulgated martial law from 1972 to 1981, is leading the presidential race. The latest poll by independent pollster Pulse Asia on who Filipinos would vote for as president showed 56 percent of survey respondents favoring him.
Incumbent Vice-President Leni Robredo came in second with 24 per cent, while Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko" Moreno Domagoso was third with 8 per cent. Senator Manny Pacquiao came in fourth at 6 per cent and Lacson got just 2 per cent. Former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales received zero votes.
Personal and family background
Sotto is married to former beauty queen, actress and singer Helen Gamboa. The couple have one son and three daughters.
The Senator's grandfather and uncle were also senators. With politics in their blood, Sotto's son Gian is the Vice Mayor of Quezon City while daughter Diorella Maria "Lala" is a city councilor. Two of Sotto's nephews are also mayor and councilor.
And with showbiz running in their veins, Sotto's elder and younger brothers Val and Vic are actor-singer-comedians. Meanwhile, two other nephews and a niece are actors.
Sotto has a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in English. His entertainment career started with him joining the band Tilt Down Men in the 1960s. He later became vice-president of Filipino record label Vicor Music Corporation. He also founded disco group VST & Company in 1977 and was also a music composer.
Outside of politics and entertainment, Sotto is an avid bowler and golfer. He was on the national bowling team and is chairman of the Philippine Bowling Federation.
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