CORRUPTION-FREE GOV’T. Presidential aspirant Panfilo Lacson (left) and running mate Senate President Vicente Sotto III present their pledge for a corruption-free government before their supporters at the Quezon Memorial Circle rally on Saturday night (March 9, 2022). Lacson and Sotto urged supporters to help them convince to elect the most qualified, competent, and experienced candidates in the May 9 polls. (Photo courtesy of media group of Lacson-Sotto)

MANILA – Independent presidential candidate Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson and running mate Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III urged their supporters to start making themselves heard in helping them convince voters to elect the most qualified, competent, and experienced candidates in the May 9 polls.

"Thank you ‘Pure Love’, ‘True Friends’, ‘Lacson Sotto Support Group’ for organizing your 'Supporters Rally' and making it happen today. It’s time to stop being silent. Get out of your echo chamber to be heard by the people. No balloons, no umbrellas, no props. Just pure love," Lacson said on his Twitter account Saturday evening after he and Sotto attended the supporters' rally at the Quezon Memorial Circle.

Lacson and Sotto along with their families received a rousing welcome from the supporters who organized the event.

During the rally, Lacson said there is much work to do with just one month left in the campaign period.

The supporters can make a difference by convincing their families and neighbors to vote for the most competent, qualified, and experienced candidates, he stressed.

"Hindi pa natatapos ang ating gagawin. Pag uwi natin ngayong gabi, marami pa tayong dapat gawin para sa May 9 sa araw ng eleksyon. Kausapin natin ang ating mga kamag-anak at ating mga kapitbahay at sabihin natin sa kanila kung sino ang pinaka-qualified, pinaka-competent at pinaka may karanasan. Kami po yan ni Senate President Sotto (Our work is not finished. Once we go home tonight, we have much to do in preparation for May 9. Let us talk to our families and neighbors and ask them to vote for the most qualified, experienced, and competent -- that's Senate President Sotto and me)," he said.

Meanwhile, Lacson and Sotto reaffirmed their commitment to good governance by signing a pledge for a corruption-free government before their supporters at the rally.

"Kami, ang tambalang Lacson-Sotto, ay taimtim na nanunumpa, na kapag kami ay nahalal bilang Pangulo at Pangalawang Pangulo ng bansa, ay pangangalagaan namin ang inyong tiwala; titiyakin naming walang bahid ng katiwalian ang aming panunungkulan, upang hindi masayang ang inyong boto (We, the Lacson-Sotto tandem, solemnly swear that if we are elected President and Vice President of the Philippines, we will ensure our administration will not be marred by corruption, thus making sure your votes for us are not wasted)," they said in their pledge.

"Ang lahat ng plataporma na aming inihain ngayong kampanya, ay aming tutuparin ng buong husay at katapatan; Uunahin at isasaalang-alang namin ang kapakanan ng Bansang Pilipinas at ng mamamayang Pilipino (We will fulfill our promises to implement much-needed programs of government. We will put the interest of the Philippines and the Filipino first)," they added.

As this developed, Lacson said enlightening and educating the voters will remain the focus of the homestretch of their campaign.

He added they will convince Filipino voters to base their choices not on what the surveys dictate but on what they believe are the candidates' qualifications and competence.

"We will continue to educate and enlighten our electorate. Qualification ang tingnan, hindi popularity. Sino ba may kakayahan, sino ang may experience, sino ang may competence and qualification, yan ang piliin nila. Huwag nila isipin boboto nila baka masayang ang boto (Look at qualifications, not popularity. Vote for who has the competence, experience and qualifications and get rid of the mentality that you will waste your votes just because the competent or qualified candidate is not leading in the surveys)," Lacson said at the Pandesal Forum in Quezon City early Saturday.

He said Filipinos have been suffering for so long because they have failed to elect the most qualified candidates in past elections -- and deserve a much-needed break via a leadership that will see them through these challenging times.

Lacson also said he and Sotto will continue their approach of directly going to the people through consultations.

"We deserve nothing less. Ang Filipino for the longest time we have suffered. Dapat bigyan ng (They need a) break. We are offering ourselves with all our competence, qualification, and experience para makabuti ang buhay ng ating kababayan (to improve the lives of our fellow Filipinos)," he said.

Regulate surveys

For his part, Sotto said the next Congress may want to look into filing a bill to regulate surveys to counter their undue influence on voters' minds.

Sotto added surveys have not been a guarantee that a "leading" candidate would deliver Filipinos from their poverty and other problems.

He said it is better that voters use their conscience and discernment in choosing their candidates.

"Sa atin, konsensya, kaisipan ng botante. Kahit mag-isa ka bumoto sa taong yan… malinis ang konsensya at kalooban mo (Let your conscience be your guide. Even if you think you are the only one who votes for a certain candidate, you will feel good because you followed your conscience)," he said.

Meanwhile, Lacson and Sotto said they still have much in the tank to keep up with their hectic schedule.

Lacson said he will rely on adrenaline and vitamins, while Sotto said he will take vitamins, exercise, and prayers. But more importantly, Lacson said a clean conscience will help them sustain their campaign.

"Pag malinis ang konsensya mo, magaan ang buhay. Pero kung masama ang plano mo, iba ang purpose mo, palagay ko maski ang taong walang konsensya babagabagin ng konsensya sa gabi (When you have a clean conscience, you will feel much lighter. But if you are scheming and have other agenda, even those without consciences will be bothered when they sleep at night)," he said.

In the recent Pulse Asia survey, Lacson got only 2 percent voter preference behind Bongbong Marcos (56 percent), Vice President Leni Robredo (24 percent), Isko Moreno Domagoso (8 percent), and Manny Pacquiao (6 percent) while Sotto is the second spot in the vice presidential category with 20 percent behind frontrunner Sara Duterte (56 percent). (more)

Aid to farmers

Meanwhile, Guillermo Eleazar, a senatorial candidate under Lacson-Sotto ticket, appealed to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to also exempt the assistance being given to farmers from the election spending ban.

Eleazar emphasized that farmers are also gravely affected with the increase of petroleum products and other basic necessities.

“Dapat ding i-exempt ang pagbibigay ng ayuda para sa ating mga magsasaka dito sa election spending ban. Ngayon kailangan ng ating mga magsasaka ang agarang tulong mula sa gobyerno sa kabila ng patuloy na pagtaas ng mga bilihin (Financial assistance being provided to our farmers must be also exempted from the election spending ban. Our farmers urgently need help from the government due to skyrocketing prices of basic commodities)," he in a statement.

Eleazar also said the distribution of assistance should not be connected to politics as it is a different matter. The Department of Agriculture had temporarily suspended the distribution of subsidies for farmers.

The agency, however, appealed for exemption on the election spending ban.

Earlier, the Comelec allowed the resumption of the distribution of assistance for drivers and operators of public utility vehicles. (with Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)