MANILA – The political cauldron continues to heat up in the Philippines in preparation for the May 9, 2022 presidential, congressional and local elections as two major parties launched the candidacies of their presidential and vice presidential candidates.

First to launch amid the dazzle of klieg lights and other spectacles was the tandem of Senator Panfilo Lacson of the Reporma party for president and Senate President Vicente Sotto of the Nationalist Peoples Coalition  for vice president.

Hours later the administration party wing of Alfonso Cusi PDP-Laban formalized the nomination and proclaimed Sen. Christopher Lawrence Bong Go for president and President Rodrigo Duterte for vice president at the national assembly of their faction at the Laus International Convention Center in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

Expected to formalize their candidacies later were Vice President Leni Robredo, Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, Sen. Emmanuel Pacquiao, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Sen. Richard Gordon, who are reported to be gunning for the presidency or vice presidency.

During the PDP-Laban assembly, President Duterte accepted the challenge, saying he will run for vice president to be able to have continuity of his plans and programs and also due to what he said as lack of opposition.

Senator Go, a long-time aide of Mr. Duterte, did not refuse the nomination but clarified that he was not interested to run for president.

President Duterte’s acceptance of the nomination immediately prompted his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio who has been consistently leading surveys on presidentiables to announce that she was withdrawing from the presidential race.

In making the announcement, Mayor Sara Duterte said she and his father had an agreement that only one in the family would run for a national office and since her father said he will run for vice president, she will no longer pursue the endorsement of several parties and groups for her to seek the presidency.

Mayor Sara’s supporters and her Hugpong ng Pagbabago party, however, said they believe that she could still change her mind, especially if President Duterte will also change her mind about running for vice president.

Political experts predicted that there will be a four-way presidential contest among Mayor Sara, Mayor Isko, Sen. Lacson, Sen. Pacquiao.

Lacson and  Sotto vowed during their launch to restore order and trust in government and other institutions and an end to wrongs they said Filipinos have long endured.

The two senators made the launch in a taped program hosted by long-time “Eat Bulaga” host Pia Guaniao and aired on national television and radio and on various social media platforms under a coalition of Partido para sa Demokratikong Reporma formerly led by former Armed Forces chief and Defense Secretary Renato S. de Villa and now headed by former Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, the Nationalist People’s Coalition and other groups.

Earlier, Lacson and Sotto unveiled their senatorial lineup that includes former Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay Sr., Sorsogon Governor and former Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Sens. Sherwin  Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Joel Villanueva and Juan Miguel Zubiri, former senators Loren Legarda, Gregorio Honasan and Joseph Victor Ejercito, Congresswoman Lucy Torres Gomez and former Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal. They will have their separate proclamation.

The virtual launch included lights and sound spectacles and testimonials by Gen. de Villa, Teresita Ang See, and Michael Ray Aquino in what could be a preview to an unprecedented pandemic-time campaign. They were the first tandem to officially launch their candidacies.

Also present at the event were the two candidates’ families, production staff and select audience all tested for COVID-19.

 The two introduced their campaign motto “Ito ang Simula,” which is centered on “Katapangan, Kakayahan at Katapatan  (Loyalty, Integrity and Ability),” and their “roadmap” for the people.

“Panahon na para itama ang mali. Ito na ang simula,” said Sotto, who was first to come out, walking to the stage to “Magkaisa,” the iconic People Power anthem which he wrote.

“Ang tamang pamumuno ay dapat pangunahan ng leadership by example hindi sa salita kundi sa gawa. No leader can succeed if he cannot practice what he preaches,” said Lacson, a former national police chief and long-time senator who entered the venue to a song that chanted his name.

In his speech, Lacson highlighted the problems that the Philippines is currently facing, among them the huge debt, unemployment, closure of businesses, the increasing number of poor Filipinos, illegal drugs, and the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

“Hindi biro-biro ang mga pagsubok na haharapin ng susunod na administrasyon. Between me and Senate President Sotto are more than 80 years of honest, dedicated, and competent public service,” he said.

He said their “competence, integrity and courage to lead” can help the country rise above the adversities. He also stressed the need for “leadership by example,” saying “no leader can succeed if he cannot practice what he preaches.”

“Kailangan natin ng lider na ang tama ay ipaglalaban at ang mali ay lalabanan. Kaya naman magiging una sa ating prayoridad ang mas maigting na pagtugon sa pandemya. Marapat lamang na punan ang mga kakulangan at ituwid ang mga kamalian,” Lacson said.

“We need strict discipline in the management of public coffers. There will no longer be swindlers and exploiters, whether close friends or strangers. There should be only one standard for everyone to follow and enforce. There are no sacred cows among those who will profit from the government,” the lawmaker added.

He also pointed out the need to distribute resources to various parts of the Philippines and pushed the need for local government units’ autonomy but with greater accountability.

“Kaunting tiis na lang, malapit na, makakaahon na tayo [A little more patience. It is not long before we recover],” he said.

For his part, Sotto wooed the public to give him their trust in order to bring hope to the country. He reiterated the list of “serious” problems that the Philippines is currently dealing with.

“Marahil, dumating na tayo sa punto na hindi na natin kayangipagsawalang bahala na lamang ang mga nangyayari – sa ating gobyerno, sa ekonomiya. Tama na!Kailangan na nating tumugon! Kailangan na nating umaksyon! Kailangan na natin magsanib pwersa upang mapigilan at maitama ang mali. Ito na ang simula,” he said.