MANILA— Sen. Panfilo Lacson has set his sights on the presidency for the second time in his half-century career in government, this time more optimistic in securing a victory, thanks to "lessons learned" from his failed presidential bid nearly a decade ago.
Lacson, who lost to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the 2004 race, is the lone repeat contender in the upcoming 2022 presidential elections.
"I've learned a lot in the 2004 run," Lacson said in an online forum weeks after he filed his certificate of candidacy for president under the Partido para sa Demokratikong Reporma (Reporma).
When asked what was his biggest takeaway from his previous loss, Lacson said: "Do not run as an orphan."
In 2004, the former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief was forced to campaign with only a few allies after the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) was spilt into two factions, with former Sen. Agapito "Butz" Aquino backing Lacson's candidacy and the late Sen. Edgardo Angara supporting the bid of actor Fernando Poe Jr.
"Back then, we felt like an orphan," Lacson said.
"Ang liit ng grupo namin (Our group was very small) but these are very competent and qualified people," he said.
Among those who campaigned with and for Lacson was Aquino, San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora and former House Minority Leader Carlos Padilla.
"We were a very cohesive group then but talagang napakaliit (it was very small)," he said.
Unlike his 2004 presidential bid, Lacson said his fresh campaign for 2022 is backed not just by one but a coalition of at least 3 political parties.
Lacson's Reporma has coalesced with the National Unity party (NUP) and the Nationalist People's Coalition, which is chaired by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Lacson's vice presidential candidate.
"We have very good and competent individuals na malaki 'yung grupo (that belong to a big group)," he said, noting that he now has more fire power and ground troops for the upcoming national polls.
"I hope our grassroots organizations will really pull through. 'Yun ang aming (That's our) effort," he said.
WINNING STREAK AND SOLID BASE
Candidates who seek the presidency again after losing their first bid tend to have worse results on their second or third attempts at bagging the country's top elected post, according to data from the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Late Sen. Mirian Defensor Santiago ranked 2nd in the 1992 national elections, with 19.73 percent of votes. She placed 7th in the 1998 polls with only 2.96 percent of votes.
In the 2016 elections, Santiago improved her 1998 numbers and placed 5th with 3.4 percent of votes. The standing, however, was still a far cry from her maiden run for the presidency.
Former first lady Imelda Marcos landed in 5th place in the 1992 presidential elections with 10.32 percent of votes. She tried her luck again in 1998, but withdrew from the presidential race after getting less than 2 percent of votes.
In the 1998 polls, late Sen. Raul Roco placed 3rd with 13.83 percent of votes, but dropped to 4th place with 6.45 percent in his second attempt in 2004.
Evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva placed 5th in his first presidential bid in 2004, with 6.16 percent of total votes. He had the same showing in the 2010 national elections, but his share of votes dipped to 3.12 percent.
"A candidate who has lost once will have very little to no chance of winning," communications expert Joyce Ramirez told ABS-CBN News.
"To convince people for the top post, there should be a record of consistent winning. Otherwise, it does not entice confidence if one has a record of loss," she said.
A winning streak "will always be at the back of the minds of voters" when it comes to presidential races, Ramirez explained.
Candidates who do not have a solid base of supporters would also find it difficult to win a presidential race regardless of their win-lose record, she said.
"It is important for any candidate to have that rabid following or bailiwick then let it multiply, said Ramirez, who has handled several political campaigns and private sector branding projects over the years.
"The presidency is an emotionally-charged race. There is very little chance at winning if one doesn't have a solid base."
In Pulse Asia's September 6 to 11 polls, only 6 percent of respondents said they would vote for Lacson, placing the police chief-turned-senator behind 4 other presidential contenders.
But Lacson's team shrugged off these numbers, saying their standard bearer's "steady, slow burn" trajectory towards Malacañang is "a good sign at this point."
"Para siyang tinatawag na slow burn, steady. Two, naging four. Four tumaas sa eight. It keeps going up," said Reporma spokesperson Minguita Padilla.
(It's like a slow burn that's steady. Two became four. Four became eight. It keeps going up.)
"Hindi ‘yung mataas tapos biglang naging parang shooting star, ‘yung ganoon, na nawala ang shine... 'yung iba, either it’s a plateau or bumababa," she said.
(He's not like other candidates who are like shooting stars that would suddenly lose their shine... others either plateau or decline.)
Lacson still has enough time to "increase his public presence," said Dennis Coronacion, who chairs the University of Santo Tomas Department of Political Science.
"Ngayon hindi pa maka-connect sa kaniya (Lacson) ang tao," he told ABS-CBN News.
(As of now, people have yet to establish a connection with Lacson.)
"Hindi totally helpless si Lacson. He can do something about it. Puwede niya pang ayusin 'yan," he said.
(Lacson is not totally helpless. He can do something about it. He can still fix that.)
The Reporma standard bearer needs to have a clearer stance on issues because he seems to be "trying to cast an image as a candidate that can draw votes from the Duterte supporters and can draw votes from the anti-Duterte supporters," Coronacion said.
"Namamangka sila sa dalawang ilog (they are navigating two rivers at once)... Let's see if that's going to work," he said.
Lacson can find refuge in the initial failure but eventual success of US President Joe Biden, political analyst Ramon Casiple said.
Biden first ran for US president in 1988, but eventually withdrew his candidacy after his campaign was marred by several issues including allegations of plagiarism and false claims over his educational attainment.
Over 3 decades later, Biden snagged the presidency from re-electionist Donald Trump.
"He (Biden) ran and lost but he ran again because he studied his record. He knows what the people want," Casiple said, noting that Lacson should take a cue from Biden's strategy.
"If you've been judged already by the people, you have to really discern if that judgment is a long lasting one or simply because there was an issue that may have been misinterpreted by the people," he said.
Lacson, known for his brand of discipline in the PNP, was lauded in the '90s for his campaigns against kidnapping and jueteng, but was dragged into the brutal killing of the Kuratong Baleleng gang members, and the murder of publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito.
The senator denied his involvement in both cases, but fled the Philippines in 2010, months after former police senior superintendent Cezar Mancao II named him as the mastermind of the Dacer-Corbito murder case.
Lacson returned to the Philippines in 2011 after the Supreme Court backed the Court of Appeals' ruling to dismiss the case against him, noting that Mancao was "not a credible and trustworthy witness."
In 2012, the Supreme Court dismissed the Kuratong Baleleng case against Lacson.
In 2015, Mancao apologized to Lacson and Estrada for linking them in the Dacer–Corbito case, saying he was forced by Estrada nemesis Arroyo, the former president, to implicate them in the crime.
"He (Mancao) went to my office through a classmate of his," Lacson said in a recent interview.
"I readily accepted the apology. I am a very forgiving person pero mahirap ako makalimot sa ginawa sa akin (but I find it hard to forget the wrongs done to me)," the senator said.
The ability to make a political comeback after suffering from bad publicity is "the mark of a leadership of a politician," Casiple said.
"It's a question of reading the people's mind so they put your name on the ballot," he said.
Lacson said his team is disinterested in using issues of the past or controversies surrounding other candidates to boost his survey rankings.
"We will avoid getting down to gutter politics... We will do away with dirty politics, rise on our merits," Lacson said.
"'Yung mga naninira probably they have no merit to speak of kaya sinisiraan na lang nila mga kalaban nila."
(Those involved in mudslinging may have no merit to speak of that's why they just badmouth their opponents.)
Treading the "last leg" of his career as a politician, Lacson, 73, said he would rather tell voters about his career milestones and programs in hopes that this kind of campaigning would make vying for the presidency sweeter the second time around.