MANILA (UPDATE) — Senators Panfilo Lacson and Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday launched their bid for the two highest posts in the country, vowing restoration of order and trust in institutions and an end to wrongs they say Filipinos have long endured.
A spectacle of lights, music and testimonials heralded the presidential and vice presidential candidacies of Lacson and Sotto, giving the Philippines a preview to an unprecedented pandemic-time campaign.
They were the first tandem to officially launch their candidacies. It is Lacson's second time to run for president, having lost his bid to Gloria Arroyo in 2004, while it is Sotto's first bid for the vice presidency.
Present at the event taped live and aired across broadcast and online channels were the 2 candidates, their families, production staff and select audience all tested for COVID-19.
"Panahon na para itama ang mali. Ito na ang simula," said Sotto, who was first to come out, walking to the stage to "Magkaisa," the iconic People Power anthem he wrote.
(This is the time to correct what is wrong. This is the start.)
"Ang tamang pamumuno ay dapat pangunahan ng leadership by example, hindi sa salita kundi sa gawa. No leader can succeed if he cannot practice what he preaches," said Lacson, a former national police chief and long-time senator who entered the venue to a song that chanted his name.
(The right leadership should be based on leadership by example not in words but in deeds.)
He touted his and Sotto's over "80 years" of "honest, dedicated and competent public service" between them.
MORE POWER FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Outlining his platform, Lacson said aside from fixing the Philippines' pandemic response, he would also push to give local governments more power and fiscal autonomy should he win the presidency.
"Local government units must be given more responsibility in nation building, but also more accountability," he said.
"The national government will be their big brother watching over their shoulders," he said.
Sotto said their tandem would be appealing especially to Filipinos who have been mum about their frustrations with the government.
"Ito po ay hindi tungkol kay Lacson at Sotto. Ito ay tungkol sa inyo (This is not about Lacson and Sotto. It’s about you)," he said.
"Kayo ang nais naming pagsilbihan. Ang mga nananahimik. Ang mga simple at ordinaryong mamamayan... sa pamamaraan na hindi nandaraya sa batas at kaayusan, bagkus ay nakabatay sa batas at disiplina!" he said.
(You are the ones who we want to serve. The ones who keep mum. The simple and ordinary citizens... in a manner that will not transgress law and order, but is based on law and discipline.)
Pia Guanio, Sotto's long-time co-host in noontime show "Eat Bulaga!," hosted the pre-taped show simulcast on television, radio, and online news platforms nationwide.
Joey De Leon, his noontime show co-host and co-star in several films and TV shows, gave a video testimonial for Sotto, saying: "Ang pagkakakilala ko kay Tito, para sa aming grupo, isang magaling na lider o pinuno."
(I know Tito as a good leader in our group.)
Notably absent from the event was Sotto's brother Vic Sotto, also his long-time co-host and the other third of the trio TVJ (Tito, Vic and Joey).
Sotto earlier told reporters that their campaign would center on budget reforms and shun singing and dancing in sorties.
Instead of celebrities, Lacson and Sotto were endorsed by prominent figures who they have worked with over the years.
"'Yung agility niya sa bowling, world class, Philippine team is a reflection of his agility and skill and prowess in politics, in sports and in life," said Information and Communications Secretary Gringo Honasan, a close friend of both Sotto and Lacson.
(His agility in bowling is world class because he is from the Philippine team, and it is a reflection of his agility and skill and prowess in politics, in sports and in life.)
Robina Gokongwei-Pe, daughter of late tycoon John Gokongwei, attested to Lacson's dedication to his job back when he was still a police officer.
"It was exactly 40 years ago when Lt. Col. Ping Lacson rescued me and my cousin from kidnappers," said Gokongwei-Pe, who now leads Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc.
"I remember you barged into our room, all in white, and rescued us. You were our white knight," she said.
"May you be the white knight for many more of our countrymen," she said.
Lacson, who was a police official at a time when kidnap-for-ransom gangs thrived in the country, gave more confidence to the business sector, said anti-crime crusader Teresita Ang See.
"He has the reputation of trust, integrity and really doing his job... Diyan pa lang, malaki na ang magagawa niya para sa ating bayan," she said.
(With that alone, there's already a lot he could do for our country.)
Lacson and Sotto are running with the tagline "Katapangan, Katapatan at Kakayahan" (Loyalty, Integrity and Ability), an ode to their decades-long experience in public service.
Lacson started his government career in 1971 as an intelligence officer and eventually served as the Philippine National Police chief from 1999 to 2001.
Sotto, a former actor and music producer, entered public service in 1988 as Quezon City vice mayor.
After a single term in local government, Sotto ascended to the Senate in 1992, and was appointed chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board under the Arroyo administration.
In 2010, Sotto made a Senate comeback and is now the chamber's Senate President, and among lawmakers with the most number of years in the chamber.
Lacson and Sotto - both part of the "Macho bloc" in the Senate - is backed by the Nationalist People's Coalition, tied to late billionaire Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco and tycoon Ramon Ang.
The pair is also endorsed by Partido para sa Demokratikong Reporma, which is led by Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, one of President Rodrigo Duterte's former allies.