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Sotto as VP frontrunner

"People are angry."

 

Without attending a single rally or officially declaring his interest for the vice presidency, Senate President Vicente Castelo “Tito” Sotto III has beaten President Rodrigo Roa Duterte as the frontrunner for vice president in surveys by respected polling firms.

In June 2021, Duterte was the runaway choice for vice president. One of every five voters wanted him as their vice president in May 2022.  Sotto languished in third place, with only one of every ten voters wanting him as the second-highest official of the land.

Then in August 2021, the Senate conducted hearings into a P42 billion chunk of the 2020 budget of the Department of the Health transferred to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). 

A third of the money, or P12 billion, was allotted as payments to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., an unknown company with very little capital (P625,000 when incorporated in September 2019).  Pharmally is without a decent office (just an email address), without adequate personnel (most of whom cannot be located), without a product, without warehouses, without delivery vehicles, without a financial track record.  Under Philippine law, such companies normally cannot get government supply contracts. 

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee discovered that Pharmally had a very powerful backer and financier, a Chinese national named Michael Yang, a resigned economic adviser to President Duterte and a long-time resident of his Davao City. Duterte and Yang had been friends since 1999. Yang became his economic adviser in 2018. 

The outrage against unbridled corruption was swift and unforgiving. In Pulse Asia’s September 2021 survey, Duterte’s daughter, Mayor Sara of Davao, lost 8.0 percentage points (about 4 million votes assuming a voter turnout of 50 million), as the No. 1 choice for president, from 28, to 20 percent.

Duterte himself was dislodged as the No. 1 choice for vice president.  He lost 4 percentage points (about 2 million votes), from 18 percent voter preference in June 2021 to 14 percent in September.

Senator Sotto zoomed in popularity, moving from third to No. 1, from 10 percent voter preference in June to 25 percent in September.  His 15 percentage-point gain was equivalent to a whopping 7.5 million votes.  His 11 percentage-point advantage over Duterte is equivalent to 5.5 million votes.  This makes the Senate president the frontrunner for VP and possibly the likely winner in May 2022, assuming Duterte does not try a comeback as VP candidate.

What does Sotto’s phenomenal survey performance in the VP race mean?

First, name recall counts.  The Sotto name is famous for two reasons, one, because of Eat Bulaga.  Premiered in July 1979, it is the longest running television variety show in the Philippines. Two, the original Sotto politicians came from Cebu.  They were the brothers Filemon Yap Sotto (1872-1966) and Vicente Y. Sotto (1877-1950).  Lawyers and journalists, they both served as councilor, congressman, senator and delegates to the 1934 Constitutional Convention that drafted the Philippines’ best ever constitution.  Vicente was the author of the Philippines’ Press Freedom Law (RA 53).

Two, Tito Sotto has tremendous vote-getting power.  He was No. 1 the first time he ran for senator, in 1992, with 11.79 million votes, 3.47 million votes more than second placer, Ramon Revilla Sr.

Sotto ran for reelection for senator three times.  He was No. 3 in 1998 with 11.52 million votes; No. 9 in 2010 with 11.89 million votes; and No. 3 in  2016 with 17.2 million votes. 

His presidential candidate, Panfilo Lacson, was No. 4 in 2016 with 16.92 million votes.  This implies that both Sotto and Lacson have a base following of at least 17 million.  Plus a 12 percent growth in six years, that base of support should now hit 19 million, enough to win the presidency, assuming a five or six-way presidential race.

Three, performance counts.   Tito Sotto served as vice president of the national capital Quezon City from 1988 to 1992.   He is now on his fourth term as senator of the republic.   In the Senate, Sotto became Senate majority leader and in 2018, the Senate president or third highest official of the land.  As senator he has authored more than 200 laws.

Four, Tito comes across as a clean, decent, and family-loving politician.  He has weathered most of the slings and arrows of outrageous and divisive politics, wonderfully unscathed, thanks to his innate integrity and warm and easy manner with people.

Five, people are angry.  They do not want what’s going on. 

Tito Sotto presents himself to the people at a crucial time in the life of every Filipino.  The Philippines is caught in a dizzying maelstrom of a perfect storm.  Three major crises are exploding simultaneously beyond measure—a pandemic that is the worst in 100 years, an economic recession that is the deepest in a century, and joblessness that is the most massive in our history.

Says  Sotto: “The economy has collapsed.   COVID cases are on the rise.  Corruption is widespread.   Filipinos are suffering.  Ordinary Filipinos used to be poor.   Now the poor are even poorer and suffering some more.”

“We need to take action,” says the Senate president,” before people lose hope entirely.”

Ping and Tito’s answer is experience and clean hands.

“Between me and Senate President Sotto are more than 80 years of honest, dedicated, and competent public service,” Lacson points out.   “We have the proven Competence, Integrity, and Courage to lead the country so we can rise from the rut we are in.”

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Topics: Tony Lopez , Senate President Vicente Castelo “Tito” Sotto III , vice presidency candidate , 2020 budget , Department of the Health , Budget and Management
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