Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and Senator Panfilo Lacson are seeking 2022 allies in the opposition as they eye an alliance with the progressive party Aksyon Demokratiko.
On Thursday, July 15, Sotto posted a photo of the meeting on his Instagram with the caption, “Auspicious talks with Aksyon Demokratiko.”
The photo showed Sotto and Lacson sharing a dinner with members of Aksyon and the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), including Aksyon Demokratiko Secretary General Ernest Ramel Jr., Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto, lawyer Goyo Larrazabal, former presidential advisor Ronald Llamas, former congressman Tony Aquino, and Concepcion town, Tarlac Mayor Andres Lacson.
The photo was taken at the Red Lantern restaurant at the Solaire Hotel and Casino complex in Pasay City. The meeting followed Sotto and Lacson’s “Tour of Luzon” consultation with local government and business leaders as they aim to run together in 2022.
When asked by reporters about a possible alliance between NPC – Sotto’s party, which he chairs – and Aksyon, Sotto replied through Viber that he will be consulting with his party on July 29 “to finalize.”
Sotto’s reply gave the impression that an alliance was already impending between two parties, but Aksyon’s Secretary General Ramel clarified in a phone interview with Rappler that nothing has been agreed on with NPC.
For Aksyon, it was only a meeting with possible 2022 candidates – one of a handful of meetings they have conducted but have not publicized. Ramel also confirmed a meeting with the camp of Vice President Leni Robredo.
“We have our internal party mechanism so we are not bound by their own announcement. We are not directly dealing with NPC,” Ramel said.
Still, Ramel saw the potential for an NPC endorsement for Lacson and Sotto over “some” policy and value alignments, specifically strengthening local government units.
"We had a good discussion on policies and our alignments or differences on issues. Very pronounced was the discussion on corruption and the war on drugs. Talks about empowering local governments through bigger, earmarked budget solely for local development also emerged." Ramel added.
Aksyon endorsed late president Benigno Aquino III when he triumphed in 2010. In 2016, Aksyon backed the presidential ticket of Senator Grace Poe.
It backed the opposition slate in 2019, which was wiped out by administration bets. At the House race, it supported the Luntiang Pilipinas party list whose second nominee was Ciara Sotto, the Senate President’s daughter.
Aksyon currently has one House lawmaker and one city mayor in its list of members: Pasig Representative Roman Romulo and Pasig City Mayor Vico Sotto. It also counts Mariveles, Bataan Mayor Jocelyn Castañeda and Noveleta, Cavite Vice Mayor Arlynn Alvarez as members.
Despite having a small roster of lawmakers, Ramel said the Senate President saw potential in Aksyon's growth with its member Vico Sotto becoming one of the most popular local politicians in the country.
"It's a very well-rounded political group. The integrity and sincerity of the group [are] well known. Shades of their founder Sen Raul Roco, a very good friend of mine," he said in a text message. – Rappler.com
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.