MANILA (UPDATE) - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday confirmed he is running for vice president, in tandem with Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who will seek the country's top post, during next year's national elections.
Official announcement of the Ping-Tito tandem will be on Aug. 4, according to Sotto. A launching event to open their tandem for volunteers will follow, he added.
"Nag-desisyon na kami ni Senator Lacson, oo nga. Pero ang official launching namin, plano namin is Aug. 4. Official announcement at saka, parang launching event, kasama yung mga gustong tumulong sa amin," Sotto told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
There is no immediate statement from Lacson. But on his Twitter account last Saturday, he wrote: "The 2022 campaign won’t change anything between us and our personal friends who are not joining our team. No hard feelings."
"Everything is fair in anyone’s choice of leaders. This is all temporary. We will come out of this exercise stronger in bond and closer in friendship," the former Philippine National Police chief said.
Sotto, who is turning 73 next month, said they are running to try solving the persisting problems the country is facing and "love for country."
"Saan ba papunta ang Pilipinas? Mayroon ka bang programa na maganda... makakabuti para sa bansa?" he said.
(Where is the Philippines headed to? Are there programs that will benefit the country?)
"Siguro nung nag-consultative meeting naman kami, yung iba namang kasama naming consumer groups, commuter groups, alumni... tingin nila, yung programa namin at saka background - katulad ng pagiging consensus builder ko at pagiging street fighter ni Sen. Lacson... is a very good combination," he added.
(When we held consultative meetings, some sectors said our programs and backgrounds are a good combination.)
Sotto will run under the Nationalist People's Coalition, but he did not elaborate the party of Lacson, 73, who last ran as an independent candidate.
In early July, the two senators began a series of consultative meetings in Luzon, about 3 months before the filing of certificates of candidacy for those vying for a post in the general polls next year.
The pair's so-called "Tour of Luzon" began at the Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan, according to information from Sotto's office.
Lacson and Sotto will prioritize a better handling of the COVID-19 pandemic during their political campaigns, as well as budget reform, said the latter.
The Senate President claimed that the national budget does not reach local government officials, thus causing "mendicancy" or an official's tendency to beg for money from the national government.
"Dapat malaman ng national government na ang mga local government officials at saka mga private sector, business community... 'di nakakarating sa kanila 'yung pera ng tao eh. 'Yung budget reform, kailangan ay magkaroon ng ibang sistema para makarating sa baba ang pera ng taumbayan," said Sotto.
(Our national government should know that the budget somehow does not reach local government officials and members of the private sector and the business community. We need a new system so that public funds can reach the lower level.)
PING-TITO VS ADMINISTRATION'S SHORTCOMINGS
Sotto said they are running not to add to the noise. Rather, they are running to offer what they have and hopefully improve the state of the nation.
Their tandem, he said, would highlight the country's future under their leadership, encapsulating it to 3 things: kakayahan, katapangan, and katapatan (ability, courage, and honesty).
The lawmakers will also campaign against the administration's shortcomings even if his party is "in alliance with the President."
"Hindi namin kokontrahin yung mga magagandang ginagawa ng kasalukuyang administrasyon. Kokontrahin namin yung mga hindi magandang ginagawa o mga kakulangan," Sotto said.
(We will not go against what they did right. But we will be against their shortcomings and what they did wrong)
The pair's senatorial lineup may include Sorsogon Governor Francis "Chiz" Escudero, Deputy House Speaker Loren Legarda, and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, he said.
They will also endorse reelectionist senators Migz Zubiri, Richard Gordon, and Joel Villanueva.
He denied speculations that they were asked by the administration to run to divide the opposition, saying "it will never happen."
"Hindi... not us. Hindi mangyayari 'yon. We offer ourselves, we are the alternative. Nasa taumbayan 'yan. Hindi kami papalo sa ganoong mga... hindi kami ganoong klase... hindi kami kayang bayaran, utuin," he said.
(That will not happen... It is up to the people. We will not take that kind of bait because it is unlike us. We cannot be paid, and we cannot be fooled.)
The tandem, he said, is an "alternative" from the administration and opposition. "We are neutral."
SOTTO GIVES DUTERTE A GRADE OF 7.5
The Senate President graded President Rodrigo Duterte a grade of 7.5 — a passing grade — for his overall performance.
Duterte is set to deliver his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
Sotto cited the chief executive's lackluster anti-corruption drive, as there were some corruption allegations that were not addressed.
"Alam ko galit siya sa korapsyon. Pero may mga naglalabas ng korapsyon na issue na hindi naaaksyunan... Baka naman may ginagawa na hindi natin alam."
(I know that he is against corruption but there are some issues floated that were not addressed. Maybe there are some things we do not know.)
In 2016, Duterte won the presidency campaigning on a promise to fight corruption, crime, and illegal drugs.
In early April, the country’s so-called “mega” task force against corruption (TFAC) led by the Department of Justice (DOJ) said it has received almost 300 complaints since it was established late last year.
Duterte ordered then the DOJ to investigate the entire government for corruption until the end of his term in 2022.
Over the weekend, Duterte, 76, said he will run for vice president next year if it means having legal immunity amid threats of lawsuits from his critics. His daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, is being encouraged by some sectors to seek the presidency.