Lito Lapid, ex-'Ang Probinsyano' star, is proclaimed senator

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 22 2019 11:06 AM | Updated as of May 22 2019 11:14 AM

Senator-elect Lito Lapid gestures as he talks during a break in his campaign motorcade in the province of Bataan, February 26, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- Senator Lito Lapid was proclaimed for a fresh 6-year term on Tuesday, following a campaign that banked on his stint on television's most enduring top-rater "FPJ's Ang Probinsyano."

Lapid returns to the Senate following a 3-year hiatus, during which he played "Ang Pinuno," a villain-turned-hero not far from the crime-fighter on horseback "Leon Guerrero" from his movie heyday.

He placed 7th with 16,965,464 votes.

"We cannot deny that it (Probinsyano) contributed much to the win but you are witness to his effort to reach out and personally get in touch to as many people as he can by going to practically the whole Philippines by his lonesome. That we think should also be considered," Lapid's lawyer, Jericho Acedera, told ABS-CBN News.

A candidate of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) party, Lapid crisscrossed the country during the campaign period and only failed to visit 15 provinces due to "lack of time", said Acedera. 

A policewoman holds Lapid's hand. Jonathan Cellona ABS-CBN News

"We can proudly say that Senator Lapid is the only candidate who during the campaign utilized the nautical highway and rode the Ro-Ro (roll-on/roll-off ships)," he said. 

Lapid's team only put out radio and TV ads during the last 10 days of the campaign because of limited funds and difficulty in passing media networks' screening process, he said. 

'CELEBRITY POLITICS' 

Ang Probinsyano is the most watched television show in the country, fetching an all-time highest rating of 47.2 percent on October 4, 2018, according to Kantar Media.

Lapid's role in the primetime series was a "Robin Hood-type" that made him "very relatable" to voters, said University of the Philippines political science professor Jean Franco. 

"It's really celebrity politics," she told ABS-CBN News. 

"Name recall is very friendly to the manner in which we vote our senators. It's really a popularity contest." 

Lapid ranked high in pre-election surveys, cracking the top 3 at one point, even if he had been inactive in the film industry and had no landmark law or advocacy that could be associated with him, Franco said. 

As a lawmaker, Lapid earlier said he filed some 500 bills, including the Free Legal Assistance Act, making him the sixth most prodigious in a chamber where he was colleagues with policy veterans Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Juan Ponce Enrile.

Lapid shakes the hand of a resident who chased after his float. ABS-CBN News

The movie icon-turned-lawmaker also enjoyed the endorsement of Probinsyano lead Coco Martin, who has the highest endorsement value among Metro Manila voters, according to a 2018 poll by political strategy firm PUBLiCUS Asia.

NAMESAKE PARTY-LISTS, OTHER PROBINSYANO ACTORS 

Martin and leading lady Yassi Pressman also endorsed the Ang Probinsyano group which placed 5th in the party-list race, with 98.28 percent of the votes counted as of Monday night. 

Another party-list, Probinsyano Ako, was at 8th place. 

"They really banked on the popularity of the telenovela," Franco said of the 2 groups. 

"Some people will say, nagkataon lang (it was just a coincidence). But in this case, buti sana kung mayroon nang Ang Probinsyano [party-list] even before the show aired," she said. 

Authorities, she said, should review rules to prevent party-list groups from riding on the popularity of a show. 

Two other actors who appeared on the show won local races: Jhong Hilario who topped the councilor race in Makati and Jolo Revilla who ran unopposed for vice governor of Cavite. 

However, other actors in the show did not win, including Lapid's son Mark, Edu Manzano, Richard Yap, Roderick Paulate, Rommel Padilla and Long Mejia. 

Local races have a "different dynamics" from the national level, said Franco, pointing out that voters can choose up to 12 candidates for the Senate race. 

Editor's note: "FPJ's Ang Probinsyano" airs on ABS-CBN and its official news website is News.abs-cbn.com.