Pacquiao says adopting Sotto as VP bet 'possible' if Atienza quits race

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 30 2022 08:27 PM | Updated as of Mar 30 2022 10:38 PM

Pacquiao barnstorms Iloilo

 Senate President Vicente
Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III and Sen. Manny Pacquiao. ABS-CBN News/File

(UPDATE) Sen. Manny Pacquiao is not discounting the possibility of aligning with vice presidential candidate Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto III if his running mate Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza decides to quit the race due to a leg problem, according to a statement from his camp on Wednesday.

Pacquiao, who is running for President in the May polls, said that even before the election period started, Atienza already expressed his preference for Sotto as his replacement in case he does not push through with his candidacy.

Sotto is the running mate of presidential aspirant Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

“Wala naman kaming problema ni Congressman Lito Atienza. At sabi naman ng aking ka-tandem na kung may mapili man siya na kung sakaling hindi niya kaya ay gusto niya si Sotto na pwedeng dalhin as VP,” Pacquiao said after attending a Christian fellowship at the Great Vision Church in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

(Congressman Lito Atienza and I have no problems. And he had said that in case he is no longer able to push through, he prefers Sotto as my VP running mate.)

Sotto said he appreciates being considered.

"I am humbled and will certainly appreciate such a move. Lito Atienza has, is and will always be a true stateman," said the Senate President.

Pacquiao noted that adopting Sotto as his VP bet will only happen if Atienza decides to give way.

He said he will not waver in his support for the three-term former Manila mayor, and assured that Atienza will remain as his vice-presidential candidate despite his present condition.

Pacquiao said he remains optimistic that Atienza will recover soon and can go back to the campaign trail.

He admitted though that he was supposed to meet with Sotto last Monday but it was postponed because of his meeting with Space X senior managers.

"Abangan niyo na lang yung mga susunod na kabanata kapag nakapag-usap na kami. Hindi pa kami nagkakapag-usap kaya sabi ko abangan niyo," Pacquiao said, hinting future meetings with Sotto and Atienza.

(Watch out for the next developments once we finished our meeting. We haven't talked yet.)

"Basta mag-uusap lang kami. Depende na kung ano yung pag-uusapan namin. About sa buhay, about sa politics," he added.

(But we will meet. It depends on what we will talk about - about life, about politics.)

Pacquiao on Wednesday started his two-day campaign in Iloilo in a bid to court more support for his presidential bid.

Political observers look at Iloilo as a "political opposition" country for this year's elections, as shown by the locals' strong support for Vice President Leni Robredo and her running mate Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan.

Key Iloilo provincial and city officials have also openly endorsed the Robredo-Pangilinan tandem.

Data gathered by ABS-CBN News for the 2016 elections underlined Iloilo's strong support for Liberal Party standard bearers Mar Roxas and Robredo at that time.

Instead of meeting political leaders, Pacquiao started his sortie by appearing before Christian and Baptist churches.

For the retired boxing champion, his strong backing comes from the Filipino masses, and not from politicians.

"I'm so thankful na 90% ng Christian community almost nagkaisa para sa ating hangarin na itulak ang pagbabago at Godly leadership... Alam ko hindi lang sila boboto kundi mangangampanya pa sila," Pacquiao told reporters.

Iloilo province has more than 1.6 million voters, and is part of Region VI or Western Visayas which has over 5 million voters.

Pacquiao, meantime, questioned the proliferation of polling firms claiming Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr's lead over other presidential contenders.

"Kasi magiging kapaniwala lamang ang survey kung (yung number) nagsasakto, di ba, kung tumutugma at tumatama. Kasi maraming election ang lumipas, sa election natin eh... 'di naman tumutugma halos ah. Basehan lang kasi ang survey," Pacquiao said.

He also insisted that he does not bribe people for them to attend his campaign activities.

He said he also enjoys the support of a number of social media influencers, but begged off from naming them.

"Never ako nagsabi sa ganyan na siraan n'yo ito, gawan n'yo ng ano. Kung ano lang ang katotohanan, 'yun ang ilabas," Pacquiao said. 

- with report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

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