‘Ang karapat-dapat’: Lacson takes first step in uphill battle for presidency

Senator Panfilo Lacson tells Filipinos to stop electing thieves perpetuating corruption. He offers himself as the solution.

CAVITE, Philippines – Cheered on by thousands of supporters at the Imus Grandstand on Tuesday, February 8, Senator Panfilo Lacson took his first step in the uphill battle for the presidency. 

At 73, Lacson is running on the brand of being an uncompromising corruption fighter with decades of government experience. 

At his campaign launch, supporters and members of his Senate slate repeatedly described him with one word: “karapat-dapat” – worthy. 

His Senate colleagues – reelectionists Richard Gordon, Migz Zubiri, and Win Gatchalian, and returning bets Loren Legarda and Chiz Escudero – vouched for his principles, and some of them said they considered him their mentor. 

“Hindi p’wedeng tawaran ang karanasan ng bawat isa, lalo na ang pinagsamang karanasan ng dalawa,” Escudero said of both Lacson and his running mate, Senate President Vicente Sotto III. (You can’t underestimate the experience of each of them, what more the both of them coming together.)

Lacson embraced the label – he urged Filipinos to consider him if they wanted good and honest governance, and to stop electing thieves. 

“Over time, parang tanggap na natin na ninanakawan na tayo, ibinoboto pa natin. Hindi ba dapat magising tayo sa katotohanan [na] tayo rin ang kumukuha ng pamukpok sa ulo natin?” Lacson said. 

(Over time, it seems we’ve accepted a way of life where we continue to vote for those who steal from us. Shouldn’t we all wake up to the reality that we’re the ones creating headaches for ourselves?)

“Hindi pa huli ang lahat,” he added, offering himself as the solution. (It’s not too late.)

Cavite in his heart

Lacson launched his candidacy on sacred ground – with Imus being both his homeland and the site of Filipino revolutionaries’ victories against colonizers. It was also the province that had consistently delivered him the most number of votes. 

At his proclamation rally, the campaign team treated his supporters with an evening of speeches and pure entertainment, which included surprise appearances by the Eat Bulaga! gang of his running mate Sotto, part of the comedic and largely popular trio Tito, Vic, and Joey before he entered politics. 

Lacson was the last to speak, the highlight of the program. And so was the promise he made to his province mates and to voters in general: “Kapag ako ay pinagpala na maglingkod, hinding-hindi ko kayo ipapahiya. Hinding-hindi ko kayo bibiguin.” (If I will be blessed with the opportunity to serve, I will not bring shame unto you. I will not disappoint you.)

The crowd of Caviteños before him returned his love that night, despite their governor saying in a social media post several days before that an internal survey showed the majority of the province’s voters preferred another candidate.

Governor Jonvic Remulla, though, was the first to defend Lacson later, when another candidate questioned Lacson’s public service track record. Even the governor conceded that, in his opinion, his province mate senator was the most qualified to become president at this time.

Out of Cavite’s 23 mayors, 16 showed up at Lacson’s proclamation rally. Of the eight congressmen, four attended. The capital’s outgoing mayor, Emmanuel Maliksi, even emceed Lacson’s first ever press briefing as a presidential candidate. 

Lacson as a stamp of approval

Lacson’s senatorial slate consisted of former colleagues and and greenhorns. 

In their speeches, be it delivered through a pre-taped video or in person at the grandstand, the candidates treated Lacson as a stamp of approval: that being chosen to be on his slate meant they didn’t have a taint of corruption.

“Sila ay galit sa corrupt. Kaya po siguro ako ay andito (They are against corruption. Maybe this is why I am here with them),” said former senator JV Ejercito, who is packaging himself as “the good one”, obstensibly to put some distance between him and his father, former president Josep Estrada, who was once convicted of plunder, and his half-brother Jinggoy, another senatorial candidate, currently out on bail while on trial for plunder.

Senatorial candidate Minguita Padilla, a doctor, repeated the campaign pitch she had for her patients. She said that only in Lacson did she find a leader with experience and was against corruption. 

As for Lacson’s running mate, fellow longtime senator Vicente Sotto III, he said only in Lacson’s Senate slate will Filipinos find a selection that was free of corruption.  

Despite these praises, Lacson, according to latest surveys, was still trailing against other presidential candidates.

The summit is clear for the campaign team: To have more Filipinos see what their candidates and supporters are already seeing in their “truly worthy” candidate. 

As many elections have shown, however, there have been countless other worthy and qualified candidates for the job. They often did not win.

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