Duterte vs Sotto in VP race?

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

At this early stage, all wet eyes looking at the next presidential race are focused on who would be their rivals to run in the coming May 9, 2022 elections. But the Vice-Presidential elections would likely perhaps be the most watched battle. This is especially after no less than a sitting President, former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has been telling Filipinos he might consider to run for the vice presidency in next year’s elections.

Expressing his keen interest to slide down to vice presidency as “pantakot” to deflect image of being “lameduck” in his remaining days in office at Malacanang, the body language of President Duterte speaks otherwise. How can President Duterte be seen as “lameduck” when his latest approval ratings have not gone down dramatically?

As of the most recent opinion surveys done by both the Social Weather Station (SWS) and Pulse Asia, President Duterte’s net satisfaction ratings remained double-digit despite the government’s much criticized responses following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic since March last year. In the Sept., 2020 Pulse Asia survey, President Duterte’s approval and trust ratings even rose to 91 percent. In the last SWS survey done in Dec., 2019, President Duterte’s satisfaction rating stood at 81 percent.

So, as far as being seen as “lameduck” for contemplating a VP run is obviously a lame excuse of the former Davao City Mayor.

The “pantakot,” however, is not enough to scare a determined candidate. From the looks of it, the camps of Senate president Vice President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and fellow Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson are least perturbed. Sotto along with Lacson as his most probable presidential runningmate have been visiting Northern Luzon provinces the past few weeks for “consultation” meetings for their team-up for the May, 2022 bids. Sotto though faces a much tougher opponent than Lacson would have in the presidential race.

As the nominal chieftain of the PDP-Laban, President Duterte enjoys the advantages of the ruling administration party in power. But the current intramurals dividing the PDP-Laban between the fractious camps supportive of the presidential run of Sen. Manny Pacquiao and the group of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi deepen the kinks in their political machinery.

Without Pacquiao, Cusi’s group went ahead with their party meeting last May in Cebu where they approved a Resolution endorsing the VP run of President Duterte. In retaliation, the Pacquiao-led faction ousted last week Cusi as vice chairman of the PDP-Laban national council and two other party stalwarts.

On the other hand, Sotto enjoys the solid and definite support of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC). He is the chairman of the NPC which he joined in 2016.Turning 73 years old next month, Sotto is coming in prepared for the next phase of his political career, possibly to be elected to serve as the country’s next Vice President. Actually, he first intimated his possible run for the vice presidency during our Kapihan sa Manila Bay Zoom Webinar held last Jan. 13 this year.

During that virtual news forum, Sotto disclosed he might be the only candidate who has already drafted a platform of governance for the Office of the Vice President (OVP) if elected for the next six years. Being at one time as Vice Mayor, Sotto pointed out, he has experiences on how to effectively act and discharge his role and functions as the No. 2 highest elected official at City Hall and served as “acting” Mayor whenever ex-Quezon City Mayor Jun Simon was out of City Hall.

Sotto likened running the Vice Mayor’s office to the OVP, except that the second highest elected office of the land has larger national constituency. Under our country’s 1987 Constitution, the Vice President would succeed as “acting” President only in case of resignation, incapacity, or death of the sitting Chief Executive.

While Sotto has been serving in various positions in the government for the past 30 years, he has been connected longest to all Filipinos from Aparri to Jolo through the country’s oldest running popular noontime TV show “Eat Bulaga.” In fact, it is marking its 41st anniversary this July 30.

Sotto started his career in 1988 when he first run and won as Vice Mayor of Quezon City and served until 1992. Riding on the crest of popularity, Sotto topped the 24 Senate slots up for grabs during the May, 1992 elections when he won his first round of stint at the Senate and got re-elected until 2004.

He acted as the campaign manager of the late presidential candidate, action movie star Fernando Poe Jr. who ran but lost in the 2004 presidential elections to then incumbent president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Subsequently, Mrs. Arroyo recruited Sotto to join her Cabinet as chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) in 2008. As DDB chairman, Sotto headed the policy-making body over the Philippine Drugs Enforcement Agency (PDEA). Sotto is considered one of the founding fathers of this agency created under the law he authored under Republic Act (RA) No. 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Sotto is the most veteran and most senior lawmaker in the present 18th Congress. Sotto got elected back at the Senate in 2010. He was twice elected as Senate president in the 17th and 18th Congress. Going into his second and last term ending in June next year, Sotto would have served a total of eight Congresses.

For five years, President Duterte and Sotto as Senate president have been the two most popular and most trusted public officials despite political attacks both have been reaping through these years. It will be an exciting battle for the vice presidency if the face-off of the two comes to head.

If President Duterte wins as vice president, then we can say that it’s expected. But if Sotto wins, then it will be a record in Philippine politics. Imagine, defeating an outgoing president in vice presidential elections? It will be included among the “only in the Philippines” phenomenon.



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