MANILA (3rd UPDATE)— Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson on Thursday said he resigned as chairman of his political party because it decided to support one of his rivals for the presidency.
Lacson, however, said he would not withdraw from the presidential race.
In a statement, Lacson said Partido Reporma president Pantaleon Alvarez informed him on Wednesday that their slate in Davao Del Norte, led by party secretary-general and Governor Edwin Jubahib, "has decided to endorse another presidential candidate."
Lacson said that since he joined Partido Reporma "at the behest of these top-tier officials", he believed it was "only decent and proper—consistent with my time-honored uncompromising principles" to leave the party.
Alvarez later announced the party was shifting its support to presidential contender Vice President Leni Robredo.
Lacson said his resignation from Partido Reporma "effectively makes me an independent candidate."
"No matter what, maski ano pang ang mangyari, harangan man ng sibat, hindi kami aatras," he said in a press conference.
(No matter what happens, even if we're stopped by a spear, we will not withdraw.)
He added he harbored "no ill will" against officials of his former party.
"I assure you that I will be your leader and supporter in our shared convictions and aspirations," he added.
In a press conference, Lacson told reporters that there were already "insinuations" a month ago that Partido Reporma would support another candidate.
"And I knew exactly then how to read between the lines," he said. "Kaya lang (but) I kept it to myself."
He noted that the decision of Partido Reporma to support another presidential bet would not affect the certificate of nomination and acceptance (CONA) that he had already submitted to the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec).
"Tinanong ko na yung Comelec kung ano yung effect, suppose they withdraw the CONA. Sabi nila walang effect. Ang sabi nila ang nagma-matter dito yung date when the CONA was issued, so walang problema," he said.
(I asked about its effect, suppose they withdraw the CONA. Comelec said it had no effect. They say what matters here is the date when the CONA was issued, so there's no problem.)
Meanwhile, Lacson's running-mate Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III said he had yet to receive word on whether or not Partido Reporma would still back his vice presidential bid.
"Wala akong nakakausap tungkol d'yan. NPC (Nationalist People's Coalition) ako eh. Any endorsement on any political party, welcome," he said.
(I have yet to talk to anyone about that. I am from the NPC.)
Lacson said he hoped Partido Reporma would still support Sotto's candidacy.
Some 3 months ahead of the May 2022 polls, Lacson has lagged in surveys for the presidency. He scored the backing of 2 percent of likely voters in a Feb. 18-23, 2022 poll by Pulse Asia.
Robredo in the same survey was a distant second to former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. He scored 60 percent, while she got 15 percent of the support of likely voters.
Following Lacson's resignation, former Magdalo party-list representative Francisco Ashley Acedillo also quit as Partido Reporma spokesperson.
Acedillo told the media he was "totally committed" to support Lacson's presidential candidacy.
Senatorial aspirant Dr. Minguita Padilla, who is in Lacson's slate, said she had yet to talk to the senator but would continue to support him.
"All I can say right now is that I joined Reporma upon the invitation of Ping Lacson with whom I share major advocacies. He is also an old friend. I will continue to support him...but we will have to talk soon," she said.