Sotto says he and Lacson won’t neglect Senate duties when campaign begins

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he and Senator Panfilo Lacson – who would be his standard-bearer in the 2022 elections – would not be remiss in their legislative duties once their campaign goes full swing.

Sotto made the commitment when asked in a press conference on Thursday, July 22, on how he and Lacson planned to balance their tasks as senators while campaigning for their bids for the vice presidency and presidency, respectively. 

Lacson and Sotto already confirmed that they were running as a tandem in the high-stakes elections that would elect President Rodrigo Duterte’s successor. They planned to formally announce their electoral bids on August 4. 

The tandem has started consulting with local politicians, political parties, and businessmen in the run-up to the 2022 polls. They have teased their plans to run the government “like a private corporation” similar to Singapore.

“Pareho kaming never absent, never late eh! Kaya hindi kami makakapagpabaya sa trabaho namin… I don’t see any problem at all.” said the Senate President.

(We’re both never absent, never late! That’s why we’re not going to neglect our work… I don’t see any problem at all.)

Sotto and Lacson are among the most senior members of the Senate, actively participating in plenary debates and committee hearings.  

Sotto also physically presides over the Senate sessions even when the chamber had to adopt a hybrid format when the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in 2022.

Lacson is an independent senator, while Sotto chairs the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC). The Senate President earlier said that his party was open to adopting Lacson as standard-bearer, but this would be finalized once party members meet on July 28. 

Sotto also doubted other colleagues in the Senate would neglect their tasks in the chamber, as those who were likely to seek reelection in 2022 were being eyed by the Lacson-Sotto tandem as part of their senatorial lineup. 

They include senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, and Juan Miguel Zubiri, the Senate majority leader.

“That’s my expertise eh, consensus-building. I don’t see any problem at all. As a matter of fact, most of the reelectionists are with us eh, so wala akong nakikitang problema (so I don’t see any problems),” said Sotto. 

Why does this matter?

Members of the Senate have already caught the 2022 election fever months before the filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs) in October. 

Apart from Lacson, senators Gordon and Manny Pacquiao were also said to be gunning for the presidency in 2022. 

Pacquiao and Senator Aquilino Pimentel III are now embroiled in a messy civil war in the ruling PDP-Laban, where their party mates have booted them out of the leadership upon the blessing of President Rodrigo Duterte himself. 

Gordon, meanwhile, earlier said he was considering to run for president and was looking for a potential running-mate. 

Several other members of the Senate, of course, are up for reelection in 2022.

For Sotto, the best way for incumbent senators to campaign – regardless of the positions they are aiming for – is to be “diligent” in their lawmaking duties now. 

“I’ve mentioned it before: the best way to campaign is to work, to work hard. That is the best way to campaign, especially now na flesh to flesh, handshaking is not possible. The best way to campaign is hard work. Be diligent in your work, do good for your countrymen, do good for the country, and they will see, the people will see,” said Sotto in a Rappler Talk interview in March.

All senators would have to work double time starting July 26 since lawmakers are expected to pass the proposed national expenditure program for 2022 – an election year budget – before end-December. 

Otherwise, the government would be forced to operate on a reenacted budget.

Sotto said that as long as the House of Representatives approves the budget and transmits it to the Senate by the first week of October, then the upper chamber can pass it by December. 

House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez earlier said the lower chamber was aiming to pass the 2022 budget just before the COC filing in October

The 18th Congress has also yet to pass a dozen other priority bills of the President from his previous State of the Nation Address (SONA). President Duterte is expected to add more pet measures during his final SONA on July 26. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the Senate and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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