MANILA — Action star Robin Padilla, a first-timer and the first placer in the 2022 Senate race, appealed to his fellow lawmakers help him push for charter change — the forefront of his campaign platform — as he was proclaimed senator-elect along with 11 other winning candidates Wednesday.
Addressing incoming senators and those still seated for another three years, Padilla said his lead in the polls reflect the demand for the government’s shift to federalism.
“Ang tangi ko pong hiling ngayon [sa inyo]… Iyong 26-plus million na bumoto po sa akin, naniniwala po sila sa aking plataporma — at iyon po ang reporma sa ating Saligang Batas. Hinihingi ko po sa inyo, mga kapatid ko sa Senado, atin bong bigyan ng pagkakataon ang reporma. Hinihingi na po ito. Ang nakaparaming [hinaing] patungkol sa suweldo, trabaho, edukasyon — lahat po ‘yan nakasalalay kung atin pong haharapin ang reporma sa ating Saligang Batas,” he said in his proclamation speech at the Philippine International Convention Center.
Padilla, 52, emerged as the No. 1 senator in the elections on his first try with a total of 26,612,434 votes — logging over 2 million votes more than returning Sen. Loren Legarda, and some 3 million votes more than popular broadcaster and fellow neophyte Raffy Tulfo — according to the final, official tally from the Commission on Elections sitting as the National Board of Canvassers.
The senator-elect, one of the prominent Muslim celebrities in Christian-majority Philippines, won by a landslide in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. He got 60,287 votes from the region — over 20,000 ahead of the nearest candidate, reelectionist Sen. Migz Zubiri.
In his speech, Padilla attributed his victory to the “unity” of Muslim and Christian Filipinos.
“Ang akin pong pagkapanalo ay isa pong simbolo ng pagkakaisa ng mga Muslim at Kristyano. Sa loob po ng matagal na panahon — halos umabot sa 30 taon — wala pong Muslim na naging senador. Sa akin pong mga pinuntahan mga sortie, rally, ako po ay nakiusap sa ating mga kababyaan, na sana mabigyan niyo po ng pagkakataon ang inyong mga kapatid na muling magkaroon ng representasyon sa Senado. At inyo pong binigyan ng pakakataon ang inyong mga kapatid,” he said.
Former Sen. Santanina Rasul from Sulu ended her second term in 1995.
Padilla expressed gratitude to numerous Christian groups and churches which were supportive of his senatorial bid, mentioning Iglesia Ni Cristo, Kingdom of Jesus Christ, and El Shaddai and their respective leaders.
“Lahat po kayo, ipinakita ninyo ang pagbubuklod natin bilang Pilipino, at inyo pong itinaas ang kapatid ninyong mga Muslim na sa matagal na panahon ay humihingi ng pansin. Ako po’y buong pusong nagpapasalamat sa inyo,” he said.
A pardoned convict who later became a Philippine Army reservist-officer, Padilla was also the top candidate among persons deprived of liberty, or detainees and prisoners, with 66 votes; and among local absentee voters, including military and police personnel, with 46,331 votes.
Padilla, who had the widest reach and most interactions on Facebook among the senatorial aspirants during the election season, meanwhile ranked second to Legarda in the manual voting of overseas Filipinos, with 20,419 votes.
While Padilla is first-time election winner, he first sought an elected post in the mid ‘90s. The son of the late Camarines Norte Gov. Roy Padilla, Sr. and former actress Eva Cariño, he ran for the vice-gubernatorial seat in Nueva Ecija in 1995, but lost.
A year later, Padilla’s “Bad Boy” moniker made a real-life impression when he was convicted of illegal possession of firearms. He stayed behind bars for only two years, after then-President Fidel V. Ramos granted him conditional pardon in 1998.
He also managed to reclaim his leading-man status, with pairings with A-list actresses including Angel Locsin, Anne Curtis, and Jodi Sta. Maria, after first charming the likes of Sharon Cuneta and Kris Aquino in the ‘90s.
Padilla’s re-emergence expanded to politics, as he became one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fiercest supporters during the 2016 elections and throughout his term in office.
During Duterte’s first year as president, in November 2016, he granted Padilla absolute pardon, restoring his civil and political rights — allowing him to seek public office if he so wished.
Fast-forward to 2022, his criminal conviction no longer stood in the way of running for an elected post anew.
On Wednesday, Padilla specifically thanked the president’s former aide, Sen. Bong Go, for “bringing me here.” He then posed with the fist bump associated with the Duterte administration for his family photo after his speech.
Padilla carried over his loyalty to the Chief Executive’s daughter, Davao City Mayor and now-presumptive vice president Sara Duterte. As a senatorial candidate, Padilla was included in the “UniTeam” ticket of the younger Duterte and her running mate, presumptive president Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.
Family members of Padilla who also ran in the 2022 elections similarly backed the “UniTeam” tandem. Padilla’s brother and fellow actor Rommel and the latter’s former partner, TV host Karla Estrada — parents of screen superstar Daniel Padilla — likewise vied for seats in the 19th Congress.
Rommel lost his bid to become congressman of the 1st district of Nueva Ecija; while TINGOG party-list, which included Estrada as its 3rd nominee, is on track to secure two seats in the House of Representatives.
Echoing his signature song during his “UniTeam” campaign, Padilla ended his speech Wednesday with lyrics from the Eric Clapton tune, saying, “Bilang panghuling salita, gusto ko pong malaman niyo, ‘It’s late in the evening, I feel wonderful tonight.’”