2022 Philippine Elections

Lacson-Sotto campaign: ‘Eat Bulaga!’ gang in full force, Senate bets mostly absent

Rambo Talabong

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Lacson-Sotto campaign: ‘Eat Bulaga!’ gang in full force, Senate bets mostly absent

SURPRISE. Popular television and film personality Vic Sotto appears onstage at the Lacson-Sotto proclamation rally in Imus, Cavite, on February 8, 2022.

Angie de Silva

(1st UPDATE) On proclamation night, the gang makes it clear: they are there not just for their Tito Vice but for their President Ping

While the Eat Bulaga! stars electrified the crowds at the proclamation rally of presidential candidate Panfilo Lacson and running mate Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday night, February 8, most of their senatorial bets were absent.

Lacson and Sotto were proclaimed at the Imus Grandstand, gathering around 4,000 supporters, who, at the start of the program, kept their distance from each other in compliance with pandemic protocols.

The proclamation rally is important to any president-vice president tandem as it is the one-time opportunity for their campaigns to set the tone for the next three months before the elections.

Of the 15 party-mate and adopted senatorial candidates of Lacson and Sotto III, only 5 were present in their campaign rally at the Imus Grandstand in Cavite:

  1. Former police chief Guillermo Eleazar
  2. Former Makati congressman Monsour del Rosario
  3. Minguita Padilla
  4. Former senator JV Ejercito
  5. Former agriculture secretary Manny Piñol

Some of them were physically absent but showed their support by sending in a proxy or recorded and edited video:

  1. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian was represented by his brother Deputy Speaker Wes Gatchalian
  2. Senator Migz Zubiri was represented by his wife, Audrey Tan-Zubiri
  3. Senator Gringo Honasan was represented by his sister, Alya Honasan
  4. Senator Richard Gordon sent in a video message
  5. Former senator and incumbent Antique Representative Loren Legarda sent in a video message
  6. Former senator and incumbent Sorsogon Governor Chiz Escudero sent in a video message

Meanwhile, the following adopted senatorial candidates did not appear, send a proxy, or a video message:

  1. Senator Joel Villanueva
  2. Broadcaster Raffy Tulfo
  3. Former Quezon City mayor Herbert Bautista
  4. Former vice president Jejomar Binay

Zubiri, Gatchalian, and Bautista were instead at the campaign launch of Lacson and Sotto’s opponents, former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte. Villanueva, meanwhile, held a campaign launch of his own, where he showed a video of support from Lacson.

Lacson and Sotto later announced that Bautista left their senate slate ahead of the proclamation rally.

The ‘dabarkads’ deliver

While the senatorial candidates tried to heat up the crowd with speeches, knock-knock jokes, and even their campaign jingles, it was the stars of the long-running noontime show Eat Bulaga! who truly electrified the audience.

Right before Sotto’s speech, comedic duo Wally Bayola and Jose Manalo took to the stage, triggering a breakdown in the distanced formation of the crowd. Over a hundred advanced towards the stage, tiptoeing for a photo of the two.

Near the end of Sotto’s speech, he started talking about his brother, Vic Sotto. The senator joked about people mistaking him for his television and movie star brother. He delivered a soft punchline. He said that unlike Vic, he only had one wife. Then came the real punchline: Vic Sotto appeared, issuing his denial – “That was before!”

Dozens more stepped forward for a closer look.

With the appearance of just three Eat Bulaga! stars, the physically distanced Lacson-Sotto crowd condensed into a pre-pandemic sortie.

Sotto called on his nephew-in-law in the crowd: popular basketball player Marc Pingris, teasing him as the “fake Ping” when the “real Ping” was Lacson. Lacson, in turn, called on Sotto’s son, Quezon City Vice Mayor Gian Sotto, teasing his running mate that the younger Sotto had always been better looking than the father. Sotto’s daughter Ciara served as emcee of the program and sang the closing song “Magkaisa.”

The Eat Bulaga!dabarkads (gang)” has proven to be Sotto’s most loyal and powerful supporting actors in his political life. Bayola and Manalo, who called him “Tito Sen” (Tito the senator and Uncle Senator), at some point mistakenly called him “Tito Vice,” a nickname from his days as Quezon City vice mayoralty. It could be a projection too for when he becomes “Tito Vice President.”

On Tuesday night, however, the gang made it clear: they were there not just for their Tito Vice but for their President Ping. – Rappler.com

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.