2022 PH vice presidential race

Tito Sotto is still Reporma’s VP bet

Rambo Talabong

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Tito Sotto is still Reporma’s VP bet

WHAT NEXT? Vice presidential candidate Senator Vicente Sotto III during the Comelec debate at the Sofitel Hotel in Pasay City.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

(2nd UPDATE) Senator Vicente Sotto III is still the strongest contender against leading vice presidential candidate Sara Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Vicente Sotto III remains as the vice presidential bet of Partido Reporma even after the party dropped standard-bearer and erstwhile chairman Senator Panfilo Lacson in favor of Vice President Leni Robredo.

In a chance interview with reporters in Davao del Norte after announcing the party’s support for Robredo, Reporma president Pantaleon Alvarez said they were still solidly behind Sotto.

Solid kami dito kay Tito Sotto,” Alvarez said. (We’re solid here for Tito Sotto.)

He said Sotto stood out for having the greatest fighting chance against vice presidential frontrunner Sara Duterte, who is among Alvarez’s worst political enemies.

He said they might go as far as launch a “Le-Ti” campaign – a combination of Leni and Tito, which supporters alternately call “Ro-So.”

Pipilitin naming manalo siya dito,” Alvarez said. (We will do our best for Sotto to win here.)

Lacson’s wishes

Earlier on Thursday, in the press conference where he announced his resignation from Reporma, Lacson said that, even though he was dropped by the party, he would want Reporma to endorse Sotto for vice president.

“I hope Reporma continues with its endorsement for him (Sotto),” Lacson said in Filipino.

Sotto himself said he didn’t know if he would still be endorsed by Reporma after it dropped his standard-bearer

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, March 24, Sotto said that, unlike Lacson, who was given a call by Reporma president Pantaleon Alvarez, he did not receive any heads up.

“I haven’t spoken with anyone about it. I am NPC (Nationalist People’s Coalition). Any endorsement of any political party is welcome. That (Reporma) is not our party,” Sotto said.

Reporma’s new presidential bet, Robredo, has her own running mate, Senator Francis Pangilinan, who happens to be related to Sotto by marriage.

NPC and Reporma, along with the National Unity Party (NUP), have a semblance of an alliance through a pact to protect the integrity of the 2022 elections, but there is no agreement to support each other’s candidates.

NPC, a major national party, has not endorsed Lacson despite him being the standard-bearer of NPC chairman Sotto.

Lacson said that he felt that Alvarez was going to drop him as early as February, when they dined together and Alvarez apparently commented that a certain candidate was “getting stronger.”

It was in mid- to late-February when rallies for Robredo grew bigger and bigger and she saw a gradual, albeit minimal, increase in numbers in election surveys. Meanwhile, Lacson remained polling at single-digit percentages.

It’s a different case for Sotto as he was the closest contender for Sara Duterte and not Robredo’s running mate, Pangilinan. Duterte polled at 53%, Sotto polled at 24%, and Pangilinan got 11% in the end-February 2022 Pulse Asia survey.

Pacquiao-Sotto tandem?

On Thursday, Presidential bet Manny Pacquiao floated the possibility of a new tandem halfway into the campaign. Pacquiao said that he, Sotto, and Lacson have ongoing talks, which would resume once they return to Manila.

“Basta mag-uusap kaming dalawa (Sotto). Malalaman ‘nyo. Antayin na lang,” Pacquiao said on the sidelines of his Isabela sortie. (The two of us are talking. You will know about this soon. Wait for it.)

Asked if Pacquiao’s camp has sent out feelers about teaming up with Sotto, the Senate President told Rappler, “We are talking. That’s all for now.”

In June 2021, Sotto entertained the idea of Pacquiao becoming NPC’s presidential bet, saying the boxing icon was welcome to join the party amid infighting within PDP-Laban.

Pacquiao was an adopted member of the so-called “macho bloc” in the Senate, together with Sotto, Lacson, senatorial candidate Gringo Honasan.

Pacquiao’s running mate Lito Atienza has not been joining sorties and debates following a knee surgery– with reports from Mara Cepeda and Aika Rey/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.