In an historic campaign launch, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III drew first blood in the presidential and vice-presidential race for 2022.
Lacson and Sotto launched their campaign in a 30-minute program that aired on major news channels and several social media platforms on Wednesday (September 8), making them the first tandem to formally announce their presidential and vice presidential bids.
The country’s first-ever taped campaign launch titled "Ito Ang Simula" (This is the beginning) had a TV treatment that could only be expected from TV personality-turned-politician Tito Sotto. It was even hosted by Pia Guanio-Mago, noontime program host and former girlfriend of Sotto’s brother, Vic.
The program was filmed in a studio reminiscent of variety programs, complete with flashing LED lights, a live band and audience to boot.
“Tito Sen” was introduced with testimonials from friends and colleagues, including DICT Secretary Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan and comedian Joey de Leon from Eat Bulaga. Like a reality TV show contestant, he was greeted by his family backstage before he graced the stage clad in a red, plaid Lacoste shirt and jeans.
The Senate president went on to give a short speech that sounded like a militant address rather than gimmicky humor from his familiar past as noon time TV host. In fairness, Sotto appears to sincerely want to address the ailing economy and corruption in the government, saying "tama na ... kailangan na nating umaksyon (enough is enough ... it's time to act)". (Wait, didn't we hear this before from a certain person from the south?)
Sotto then called onstage his running mate and standard bearer Lacson, praising the latter for “cleaning up” the ranks of policemen and crusading against corruption. (Again, wasn't this promised by a certain someone before?)
Following another short clip of testimonials, including one from his elementary classmate and another from Partido Reporma founder Renato de Villa, it's time for the grand entry of Lacson, who also walked the backstage halls to be greeted by his family before joining Sotto onstage.
Lacson was also wearing a plaid shirt (perhaps it is the uniform of the day, or is a lucky charm?), made popular in the local political scene by President Rodrigo Duterte, except his was green and paired with khakis.
Both Lacson and Sotto were more explicit in their criticism of the current administration. Lacson seems to be throwing shade by saying "the public servant thinks of the nation and the next generation while the politician thinks of himself and the next election".
Lacson didn't mince any words from his speech recalling immediately that “President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that he was wrong to think that leading the country is as simple and easy as leading Davao City.”
Lacson ran down a laundry list of the country's problems, which include massive debt, unemployment, business closures, alarming increase in poverty and hunger, illegal narcotics, and a territorial conflict in the West Philippine Sea.
Lacson also took pot shots at the lack of leadership in the country. Gesticulating like a preacher speaking to his congregation on Sunday church, he emphasized, "I could not stress it enough. Proper leadership must be preceded by leadership by example. Not by words but by action."
Lacson, as if gazing at a crystal ball (or a hidden teleprompter somewhere) with an ominous sign, said, "no leader can succeed if he cannot practice what he preaches," then paused to scan his audience in the studio and may be those watching in and around the general of area of Sampaloc, Sta. Mesa and Quiapo in Manila.
Lacson said that both he and Sotto are still drawing up a “roadmap” that would serve as their platform of government. But he did highlight several priorities, among them: the pandemic response and recovery, stricter management of public funds, and engaging local governments by giving them more responsibility, autonomy and greater accountability.
"We are nearing the crossroads of our nation’s modern history – and we cannot afford to choose the wrong direction in charting the course of our nation in the next six years," Lacson emphasized.
Meanwhile, Sotto appealed more to emotion. He urged the public to put their faith in him, vowing that their campaign would be centered on trust.
The Senate President also mentioned the country's problems, highlighting the economy’s sorry state, and the government’s poor pandemic response. He pointed out, however, that the country's "more serious problem is the loss of hope."
"We need a country that values morality," he emphasized.
Sotto went on to say that the Filipinos have had “enough” and that we need to “take action.” “Perhaps, we have come to the point where we can no longer ignore what is happening – to our government, to our economy,” he said in Filipino.
Many were expecting that the tandem would reveal their senatorial slate in the campaign launch, but there is a cliffhanger. According to Sotto, they will announce their lineup on a separate occasion. Stay tuned then.
The program signed off like a noontime variety program – with a burst of confetti, a round of staged applause and their families joining them onstage. Cue the political jingle!
Ana Catalina Paje is a development journalist passionate about grassroots communication geared towards genuine social change. She also writes about showbiz, lifestyle, and all things Pinoy pride. The views expressed are her own.
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