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Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, who once headed the nation’s police force, was the first candidate to officially declare his presidential bid in September last year, together with running mate and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.
Lacson was first elected to the Senate in 2001 and has been a vocal critic of the questionable use of funds in the country’s annual budget. His life story was made into the 2000 movie Ping Lacson: Super Cop.
The 73-year-old Senator wants strict management of the public coffers and pledges to wage a campaign against corrupt officials if elected as president.
Lacson said he would also forgo his rights to banking secrecy to set the tone for establishing a clean government.
The former top cop said at his campaign launch, "The public servant thinks of the nation and the next generation while the politician thinks of himself and the next election."
But Lacson faces an uphill battle: The latest poll by Pulse Asia on who Filipinos would vote for as president placed Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. as the frontrunner, with 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 while Lacson got just 2 per cent. Former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales received zero votes.
But Lacson is not giving up just yet. At a joint press conference with Domagoso and Gonzales on Sunday (April 17), the three presidential candidates affirmed their commitment to follow through on their campaigns instead of withdrawing from the race.
Lacson ran for Senate in the 2001 elections under the centre-right Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), which was affiliated with President Joseph Estrada's Puwersa ng Masa coalition.
As a senator, he has spoken out against the pork barrel system and corruption, and called for investigations into anomalous activities in the government. For instance, in 2009, secondhand helicopters were sold as brand-new to the Philippine National Police. A probe later saw 14 high-ranking officers sacked.
More recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lacson exposed overpricing in the procurement of ambulances by the Department of Health – by P1 million per vehicle. He has also called out the non-transparent procurement of Sinovac vaccines, with the actual price at P517.06 per dose compared with the initially indicated cost of P1,814 per dose.
In the 2004 general election, Lacson ran for president against incumbent Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He finished third with 10.88% of the vote as an independent candidate.
He ditched his plan to run for president in the 2016 election due to low ratings in surveys. He ran for Senate as an independent and ranked fourth, with around 17 million votes, thereby garnering a third term.
He became chairman of Partido Reporma in July last year.
Issues of focus
At his campaign launch last year, Lacson ran down a laundry list of the country's problems – including massive debt, unemployment, business closures, poverty and hunger, narcotics, and territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea, also known as the South China Sea.
He also highlighted the lack of leadership in the country, saying, "I cannot stress it enough. Proper leadership must be preceded by leadership by example. Not by words but by action... no leader can succeed if he cannot practice what he preaches."
While Lacson said that he and his running mate Sotto were still drawing up a "roadmap" for government, he highlighted several priorities such as the pandemic response and recovery, stricter management of public funds, and engaging local governments by giving them more responsibility, autonomy and greater accountability.
When asked about strategies to resolve the South China Sea dispute in an interview with GMA News, Lacson said the Philippines should strengthen its alliances with the United States, the European Union, Japan, Australia and other countries with strong militaries.
Lacson was born into a humble family in Cavite and is the fourth of eight children. His father worked as a jeepney driver while his mother was a market vendor. Married to Alice de Perio, the couple has four children.
He graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1971 and thereafter joined the Philippine Constabulary, which was one service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and responsible for maintaining peace and order in the country.
After the constabulary was decommissioned in 1991, he joined the Philippine National Police. He earned a tough, no-nonsense reputation as a cop, solving high-profile crimes including kidnap-for-ransom cases in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 1996, Lacson earned a Master’s in Government Management. He later received an honorary Doctor of Laws in 2019.
As the nation's top cop from 1999 to 2001, Lacson eliminated the "kotong" or bribe culture among officers. The police chief also imposed a strict physical fitness test for officers and set a 34-inch maximum waistline for them.
By the time he quit in 2001 in order to run for Senate, the police had earned a 64 percent approval rating from the public, while Lacson got an approval rating of 73 percent.
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