Rody’s riddle

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

Two days after President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his ultimate state of the nation address (SONA), the 18th Congress seemed to have lumbered at the start of their third and final regular sessions. At the Senate, not one member from the opposition ranks rose to deliver the traditional “contra-SONA” at the floor. At the House of Representatives, two members of the left-wing Makabayan bloc took the floor last Tuesday in privilege speeches one after the other to rebut President Duterte’s SONA.

With Senate president Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Speaker Lord Allan Velasco seated behind him at the Batasan podium, President Duterte insisted his SONA should not be considered as his “swan song” yet.

In fairness to the Senators, their first item in the order of business the next day was to unanimously approve the Senate Resolution to acclaim our country’s first Olympic gold medalist, Hidilyn Diaz. The Senate president stood up at the floor to unequivocally endorse the Resolution for Diaz who prevailed over other international women weightlifters at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Describing Sotto as “consensus-builder,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson declared this is the reason why he fully agreed and concurred with President Duterte on a particular point of the latter’s SONA. Digressing from his prepared SONA, President Duterte twice asserted: “…With due respect to the Senate President, he is a good man, he can become a good vice president. He is holy,” President Duterte quipped. “But with due respect to Senator Sotto, who is also running for the vice presidency, he is a capable man, a good man, and a Filipino,” the President added.

Sotto was visibly tickled pink when Lacson paraphrased the presidential ribbing. Sotto made the announcement of his VP bid after the former Davao City Mayor himself was first endorsed by the ruling administration PDP-Laban to run again as the party VP bet in next year’s election.

Having personally listened to the annual SONAs of four presidents before President Duterte, Sotto cited there has been “no perfect SONA” delivered and will never be a perfect SONA from the points of view of the politicians, especially from the ranks of the opposition. Sotto has taken this to heart as part of the usual reactions to any of the President’s SONA. After all, he has been present in each and every joint opening sessions of Congress he attended in his total of 24 years at the Senate.

For the first time together at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay zoom webinar last Wednesday, the tandem of Lacson and Sotto gave us a glimpse of their platform of government to present before Filipino voters. But for now, both swore to first perform their jobs as Senators before politics.

“We are not pro-administration. We are not pro-opposition. We are pro-Filipinos,” Sotto impressed this upon us in our virtual news forum at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay. Currently the party chairman of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), Sotto announced last week he and Lacson will team up in next year’s elections.

Now in his second and last term at the Senate, Sotto is set to step down from office at the same time with President Duterte on June 30 next year. On the other hand, Lacson could choose to run for a second term at the Senate. He admitted his original intention was just for Senate re-election to be his “last hurrah” in politics. But upon the intense persuasion of Sotto, Lacson decided to run instead for the presidency, knowing it’s goodbye politics should he lose.

“For the sake of the future generation of our children and grandchildren,” Lacson quoted Sotto by way of euphemism to mean the Filipino youth in general, especially to save them from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Lacson believes he and Sotto could effectively work together to restore the hopes and aspirations of the Filipino nation. “Alam namin ang likaw ng bituka ng isa’t isa,” Lacson cited.

Lacson admitted it was Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez who first broached him in 2018 to make another run for the presidency. Lacson’s first attempt was in 2004 presidential elections when he run but lost as “independent” candidate.

As now president of the Reporma, Lacson disclosed, the erstwhile Speaker renewed his offer to be their party’s presidential standard-bearer in next year’s elections. Installed yesterday as party chairman of Reporma, Lacson confirmed he is determined more than ever to win this time, through his team-up with Sotto.

Calling each other as “BFF” (best friend forever), Sotto vowed the two of them would endeavor to strengthen the “alliance” of NPC, Reporma, the Aksyon Demokratiko, and to invite other political parties that may wish to join forces with them. Lacson and Sotto had “unity talks” already with the Liberal Party, headed by Vice President Leni Robredo, and soon with Sen. Manny Pacquiao.

In tandem with Sotto, Lacson offers “alternative” choice for Filipino voters to lead them out of the woes and miseries from the COVID-19 pandemic such as joblessness while illegal drugs trafficking, crimes, and corruption in government persist. Sotto and Lacson – who are both 73 years old – counted more than a total of 80 years of experience combined between them in the public service.

Obviously taking off from Lacson-Sotto count in public service, the 75-year old President Duterte bragged during the same SONA he, too, has “almost 40” years in government and politics. He was Davao City mayor for 23 years; “five years as a congressman;” four years working as vice mayor for his daughter, incumbent Davao City Mayor Sara; and the six years of the presidency. And the Mayor never lost any elections, Sotto added.

Through these years, Lacson and Sotto recalled their paths in public service intersected with President Duterte while the latter was Davao City Mayor.

Lacson and Sotto look up to Mayor Duterte as a model of “political will” in handling the challenges at the Office of the President.

But at times they could not fathom the riddle of President Duterte even as they swear readiness whatever lies ahead for them in 2022.

SONA 2021
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