Lacson-Sotto tandem has pre-empted Robredo, Trillanes and company

The announcement was scheduled for August 4, or two weeks from now. But Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and his partner, Senate President Tito Sotto III, couldn’t contain their excitement and revealed two days ago that their plan to seek the two highest positions in the country is a go. That it came in the form of a text message to media organizations didn’t diminish the impact of their decision. All of a sudden, it’s all hell has broken loose among the forces seeking to defeat the Duterte administration’s candidate.

The entry of the PISOT (this is one of the ACRONYMS coined by netizens) tandem is a monkey-wrench into the playbook of 1Sambayan and Liberal Party that premised its battle on a single-candidate only to challenge the administration. This early, administration probables have posted a commanding lead: Mayor Sara Duterte has consistently led the last few surveys with 25 to 28% while former Senator Bongbong Marcos was at a tie for second place with Senator Grace Poe at 13%. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno and Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao are also in the lead pack.

Lacson got only 4% in the latest Pulse Asia survey in a statistical tie with Vice President Leni Robredo. If both run, then they will have to fight for the bread crumbs while the administration delights in the largest slice of the pie. Hence, it is not hard to understand the call for a single candidate only for the opposition.

The obvious question that must be asked: Where is Lacson going to get the billions of pesos needed to fuel the campaign? Do they have secret backers from the business community that have assured them of the resources they will need? A presidential campaign, one that would challenge the party in power, is hard and costly. President Duterte attracted support from San Miguel’s Ramon Ang in 2016, according to the grapevine, which is why he managed to build a solid campaign organization nationwide.

Or could it be funding from abroad? At this time, with the political picture showing an almost certain victory for the administration, the usual political bets from big business are likely to go dry. The survey numbers of Lacson aren’t encouraging at all, and it is much too risky for Filipino businessmen to throw support behind him.

Right now, the only possible domestic backer would be the group of Manny Pangilinan that continues to covet the oil and gas underneath the West Philippine Sea. But 1Sambayan already holds the purse from this group. Will Lacson make an about-face and accept support from a group that includes leftists and petitioners against the Anti-Terror Law that he authored?

One thing is certain for me now: Robredo will not run. The future has turned pitch dark for her with this PISOT tandem coming into the playing arena. What about Trillanes? Well, knowing him to be a fool, he might just well run for the heck of it.

Why did Ping Lacson suddenly end his “Tour of Luzon”?

It was supposed to be a wide-ranging consultation with local leaders in various provinces of Luzon, a process that could take weeks and months, to enable Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and his purported running mate, Senate President Tito Sotto, to get a sense of what they think are his chances if and when he decides to run for President.

The “tour” started in the historic Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan where the duo had their pictures taken while praying at a pew. That was a Thursday, July 8. To everybody’s surprise, the news coverage ended up Lacson put out a press release from a La Union stop-over in which he described the May 9, 2022 elections as the most serious and important in recent Philippine history. Sotto announced he and Lacson will make an announcement on August 5, 2021 on their decision.

Have they cut short their consultations and already weigh the feedback they have gathered in only three days? There is no word their trip to the Ilocos provinces had gone ahead as scheduled. How about the Visayas and Mindanao? Will they no longer seek feedback from the rest of the nation? Are the three days enough to make a decision?

My gut feel is that three days in Bulacan, Pangasinan and La Union gave them enough evidence that running for President and Vice President would be an exercise in futility. Lacson wasn’t in the top 5 among presidential probables, securing a place a notch lower than Leni Robredo. Knowing how unpopular Robredo is, and seeing himself earn a slot slightly below her is a telling blow that could not be ignored.

It’s not as if Lacson lacked media exposure in a way that Filipino voters haven’t had an opportunity to size him up. Lacson was active in his work in the Senate. He took active part in Senate investigations and always asked scalpel-like questions. The Pulse Asia survey showed Lacson enjoyed 99% awareness level. Hence, his poor performance in the latest survey suggests that despite his posturing at every opportunity, his efforts to persuade voters that he is presidential timber didn’t achieve the desired results.

Lacson said it’s either the Presidency or retirement. He’s eligible to seek re-election. And the poll survey showed that if he ran for re-election,, he would be a shoo-in for another six-year term. He is tied for 8th to 11th places in the survey, and that could be reinforced with good campaigning.

What this tells me is that Filipino voters believe Lacson has done an excellent job as legislator, and they would gladly vote for him again. But very few — 4% — believe he has the right stuff to become President. Perhaps it is an issue of trust. There’s something about his eyes that makes many people nervous. Are the ghosts of his past as police officer haunting him? Maybe. But a dagger-look in the eyes does send a chilling sensation to ordinary people. It is a cause for discomfort.

Let’s wait and see. Aug. 5 is less than three weeks away.

Lying through his teeth (Part Two)

P/Major Rodney Raymund Baloyo IV lied so badly that it’s hard to believe any person with average intelligence would buy his story. But there’s one individual who apparently still holds to the sanctity of Baloyo’s testimony: his boss way back in November 2013, now P/Director General Oscar Albayalde.

That’s incredible.

It’s a basic principle in military leadership that a commander must be informed of everything that goes on under his watch at all times. And this dictum is taken very seriously at all levels of command in the armed forces and the national police. No subordinate will even think of doing anything without his commander’s knowledge and approval. The consequences are dire.

This is particularly true for a commander and his intelligence officer. If there is anybody in the unit that a commander trusts over and above anybody else, it’s the intelligence officer. After all, he is the eyes and ears of the commander.

Put these facts together and one reaches the inevitable conclusion that there is a far deeper bond that ties the two. Until Thursday, Albayalde continued to uphold the story of Baloyo, even after the public scolding he got from Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon. He simply refuses to abandon his subordinate. And his subordinate willingly went to jail to protect his version.

Questions. We can only raise questions.

  1. Did Albayalde know beforehand what Baloyo was planning to do, and he gave his approval?
  2. Granting that Albayalde had no knowledge, did he fail to discern the fakery in the after-action report filed by Baloyo?
  3. And after the scandal blew up, didn’t Albayalde look into the evidence of the CIDG and the PNP Regional Office 3 that led to the filing of criminal and administrative cases against Baloyo and his men?

It would seem that Albayalde deliberately ignored the evidence against Baloyo and his men. He played possum all the way. More than that, he was always protective of Baloyo. In a SunStar Pampanga story, Albayalde was quick to defend Baloyo when the latter was relieved of his post as Police Chief of San Fernando, Pampanga in January 2014. Baloyo was just due for schooling for promotion purposes, Albayalde said.

Hence, the biggest question: Is Albayalde covering up for Baloyo, just as Baloyo is covering up for Albayalde?

More than a hundred million pesos of shabu taken from the residence of Johnson Lee flooded the Central Luzon illegal drugs market in the weeks and months after the operation, forcing prices to go down.

Baloyo and his men went on a shopping spree for expensive vehicles than even Camp Crame noticed, and sent investigators headed by then CIDG chief Benjamin Magalong to conduct a probee.

Only Albayalde failed to see the truth, or so it seemed.

Is Baloyo protecting Albayalde to the extent that he was jailed for obvious lying? The Senate justice committee should pursue this angle. The nation deserves to know the truth.

Ninja cops issue turns uglier

That the so-called “ninja cops” from the Pampanga Provincial Police Office who faked a drug bust and made away with hundreds of millions of pesos worth of shabu are guilty is beyond question at this time. Even the reduction of the penalty in the administrative case from dismissal to demotion did not change the conclusion that these police officers committed grave misconduct.

The one big issue now is the revelation that PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde had asked a fellow general three years ago to tread softly on the case which was then undergoing review of the motion for reconsideration. Albayalde was looking after the welfare of his men. He didn’t want them dismissed no matter how grave their offense was.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Albayalde, who was Pampanga OIC-PD at the time, was fully aware of his men’s actions on November 29, 2013. No intelligence officer would dare embark on such an enterprise without informing his commander. Albayalde knew who the target was, and what his men were about to do. Everything came with his stamp of approval.

Now, Albayalde is PNP Chief. His men are occupying key positions in Central Luzon, albeit with one rank lower. It’s clear he condoned the actions of his men. Instead of giving them hardship assignments, he rewarded them. In effect, he didn’t just allow his men to recycle drugs and thereby make huge profits from this activity. He pampered them afterwards.

It took the bravery of former CIDG Chief Benjamin Magalong for these facts to come to the surface. And it incensed Albayalde. He made it appear that Magalong had ulterior motives in coming out into the open along with PDEA Chief Aaron Aquino. Magalong has reported that he has received death threats. It’s becoming a bitter word war that might spill out into something violent.

Albayalde is clinging to his post when the Honor Code would tell him he should resign. In other countries, being caught in that situation even lead the officials involved to commit suicide. We still remember General Angelo Reyes who took his own life than live in shame.

In case Albayalde hasn’t noticed, Filipinos are now looking at him with suspicion, if not contempt. In this face-off, I can bet that majority of Filipinos are on the side of Magalong.

My reply to Ping Lacson

“Don’t advertise our weakness.”

This, in gist, was the reaction of Senator Ping Lacson to the President’s statement on the collision incident involving Chinese and Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.

“A maritime incident is a maritime incident. I will not issue a statement because there is no investigation and no result. Wait and give the other party the right to be heard. China, ano ba dito ang totoo (what is the truth here)?” Duterte said eight days after being silent on the issue,” the President said.

Lacson described the President’s statement as a “surrender”. The President should have explored other options like the Mutual Defense Treaty, he said.

Ping Lacson

“It’s bad enough that we’re weak but don’t advertise that we’re weak. Magtira ka naman ng konting baraha. (Leave some cards),” Lacson said.

My response:

First, there’s no need to advertise that we are weak military-wise. It doesn’t take a military strategist to figure this out. The Philippines is definitely no match to a military superpower like China.

Second, the President has information that most of us can’t get our hands on. The incident as told over media might not be like what it seems to be. He is the commander-in-chief, and he has solo prerogative on making a decision about what’s the best course of action.