(Photo courtesy of Ping Lacson Facebook page)

MANILA – Independent presidential candidate Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson on Tuesday paid tribute to Jagna, Bohol Mayor Joseph Rañola for teaching him everything about analyzing the country's national budget.

"There’s one person who taught me everything. The Filipino people owe it to him na may Sen. Lacson sa Senado na nagtitiyaga at nagkakalkal ng budget (There's one person who taught me everything. Filipinos owe it to him that there is a Senator Lacson who pores through the national budget)," Lacson said on the sidelines of a meeting with representatives of sectoral groups in the province.

Also with Lacson were his vice presidential bet Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III, along with senatorial candidates Minguita Padilla and Emmanuel Piñol.

Lacson, who is known for his tight scrutiny of the country's national expenditure program, said it was Rañola, then a private citizen, who helped him realize the importance of making the budget work for Filipinos.

When he won his first Senate seat in 2001, Lacson said he faced a learning curve as he was still used to his work as a law enforcer who spent sleepless nights solving kidnap-for-ransom cases, robberies, and other crimes.

Rañola's guidance also helped Lacson in his advocacy to give local government units a fair share of the budget so they can implement their local development projects.

During his 18 years as a senator, Lacson and his staff would spend nights poring over the budget and ridding it of questionable insertions - despite the contents of the budget bill being inches thick and in tiny 10-point font.

"Mahirap pag-aralan pero sa turo niya, pinagtiyagaan at pinag-aralan ... at nakabisado ko na rin (It was hard at first but with his guidance, I persevered and learned to scrutinize the budget)," he said.

"Because of the scrutiny, we saved taxpayers at least PHP300 billion," Lacson added.

The Lacson-Sotto tandem is bringing their message of good governance directly to the people as they move to counter "survey politics," especially since they have an average of 40 percent "soft votes" where they are being considered by voters but the voters are hesitating because they are not leading in the surveys.

The Lacson-Sotto tandem said Filipinos should learn to decide for themselves instead of succumbing to the survey or bandwagon mentality, lest they waste their votes by not voting for someone who is most competent, most qualified, most experienced, and with the highest integrity in public service.

Meanwhile, Sotto said the warm welcome from Boholanos is expected as he hails from the neighboring province of Cebu.

“We will be hitting two birds with one stone. First, meet sectoral representatives from Bohol and find out from them; and from government officials how Bohol is getting along considering the crisis you have undergone. I have been here during the time of the quake and every now and then. We want to make sure if there is any help the Senate can do for you just let us know,” Sotto said.

“Senator Lacson and I have been consistent in trying to help LGUs especially when it comes to the budget, and our proposals for the upcoming admin if we make it. I always received an excellent voting record in Bohol being the neighbor of Cebu. Daghang salamat (Thank you very much),” he added. (with reports from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)