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.

Decisive leadership

When this crisis is all over, the Filipino nation will be grateful that we have President Rodrigo Roa Duterte at the helm when the deadly corona virus (Covid 19) swept all across the globe.

As I write this, the total number of infections is close to 2 million, and the death toll stood at 126,000 people. The hardest hit is the United States, followed by Spain, Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom. China, where the virus had originated, has gone down to number seven in the list.

It is our good fortune that the Philippines is just number 35 in the list, notwithstanding the fact that international air travel to and from China wasn’t suspended until late January this year. And after a month of community lockdowns in the entire archipelago, the incidence of infections seems to have slowed down. The latest figures from WHO placed the number of Covid 19 cases at 5,223, and 335 dead.

I have been studying the movement of the corona virus closely even before the WHO raised its spread to pandemic level. And it is clear to me that the decision of President Duterte to impose a lockdown effective March 15 was an effective brake to slow down the pandemic in the Philippines.

Right from the start, the idea was met with criticism and opposition. Senate President Tito Sotto described it as “over-reaction”. It was ridiculed by media critics Karen Davila and Richard Heydarian. The members of the opposition and the left joined the chorus.

Vice President Leni Robredo also questioned why policemen and soldiers were deployed on the streets to enforce the quarantine. The pandemic called for a medical response, and not a military show of force, Robredo said. Well, it was a ridiculous statement. Did Robredo expect doctors and nurses to man checkpoints?

Anyway, countries that closed its borders and imposed strict stay-at-home quarantine measures have turned out to have lower Covid 19 infections compared to the others that lingered too long on the decision. New Zealand and Denmark stand out to prove the point that a lockdown is the most effective way to contain the disease. On the other hand, the United States is the best illustration of how deadly the delay in the lockdown turned out to be.

President Duterte has had to manage this crisis with plenty of distractions from the yellow opposition and the left. As I have been saying in my YouTube videos, there is a destabilization plot right in the middle of this crisis, obviously funded by the oligarchs and led by media giant ABS-CBN. President Duterte had his hands full every minute during this period.

But things are improving. We have deflected the usual trajectory of the corona virus infections. Instead of a spike as we have witnessed in other countries, the infection curve in the country is more like a road hump that gradually rose before levelling off. It is a positive indication that the lockdown in working.

Had the President hesitated, nightmare scenes that we have seen in the U.S. and Europe and Latin America would have sprouted all over the country, with Metro Manila as the epicenter. It was a tough decision to make. Just thinking how things would have turned out if a Mar Roxas was our president is enough to give me the chills.

Yes, the President’s decisiveness at a most crucial moment was a life-saver for the country.