May 1, 2022 (10:34 PM)

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Carrying his nearly 40 years of experience in public service, he vows to restore public trust in government through a corruption-free brand of leadership.

Anchored in his personal credo: “what is right must be kept right; what is wrong must be set right,” he aspires for better governance and an action-oriented presidency that dismantle ‘syndicates’ in and out of the government.

Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson was the first candidate to officially declare his presidential bid in September last year, alongside his running mate Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.

At his campaign launch, the no-nonsense public servant emphasized, “The public servant thinks of the nation and the next generation while the politician thinks of himself and the next election.”

While their ‘roadmap’ is yet undisclosed, the 73-year-old Senator said that his leadership would include judicious government spending, purging the bureaucracy of corrupt officials, and allowing local governments more autonomy and accountability.

“It is only proper that we prioritize the greatest number of Filipinos,” he said, adding that leaders must be an epitome of dignity and respect to allow Filipinos to earn it.

“When the leaders are competent and well-respected, the ordinary Filipino wins,” Lacson said.

The 2022 elections is Lacson’s second attempt for the presidency. In 2004, he finished third in a five-way race against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in which he ran as an independent candidate. 

As a public servant, he has been a vocal critic of the questionable use of funds in the country’s annual budget and a strong proponent against wrongdoings in the government.

From being a member of the Philippine Constabulary to becoming the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to being elected a senator thrice, Lacson is utilizing his long track record to champion for an honest and better government.   

Supercop to anti-corruption czar

Lacson graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1971 and joined the Philippine Constabulary afterward, which was a law enforcement service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines responsible for maintaining peace and order in the country.

After the Constabulary’s decommission in 1991 followed his rise to the government ladder as he joined the PNP. He earned a stern and solid reputation as a cop, dealing with high-profile crimes such as kidnap-for-ransom cases in the late 1980s and 1990s.

The 2000 movie “Ping Lacson: Super Cop” is eponymous with the law enforcer’s prominence.

Moreover, his chiefship from 1999 to 2001 was PNP’s glory days because of his intensive eradication of ‘kotong’ or bribe culture among police officers. Such internal cleansing and his instituted rigid physical fitness test for officers, eliminated ‘scalawags’ in the armed forces.

Around this time, the agency gained a 64 percent record-high public approval rating, while Lacson earned an approval rating of 73 percent. 

“We know that during the time of General Ping Lacson, we saw big changes [at the PNP], not only in addressing the issue of kotong cops, but as well as his financial reforms,” retired General Guillermo Eleazar told Manila Bulletin. 

“If there was a role model I followed during my whole stint as a policeman and chief of the Philippine National Police, it would be presidential aspirant Sen. Panfilo Lacson.”

In the Senate, Lacson is a tough, unrelenting watchdog of the national budget. He is most keen on scrutinizing congressional insertions and deleting those questionable appropriation of funds, including the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel. 

The lawmaker is known to have refused to accept his pork barrel share since entering public office in 2001. Rather, he remains firm in exposing numerous corruption cases and budget anomalies involving government officials and reallocates them to other beneficial areas that require funding.

In 2016, “the Senate realigned P8.3 billion in the proposed 2017 national budget to cover students’ tuition in in-state colleges and universities,” the peoplepill report revealed. This was after Lacson “discovered and moved to take out the ‘pork-like’ insertions made by the House of Representatives.”

His recent exposé was during the Covid-19 pandemic about the overpriced procurement of ambulances by the Department of Health and the government’s questionable deals with Pharmally Pharmaceuticals. 

His constant battle against corruption earned him the degree of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa, from the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila in March 2019.

Such anti-pork advocacy even tempted Manila Mayor Isko Moreno to appoint Lacson as an anti-corruption czar if elected president.

According to VotePilipinas, Lacson is a pivotal member of the Senate who authored laws such as the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, the Philippine Identification System Act of 2018, and the Reproductive Health Act of 2011.

Lawmaker and lawbreaker?

Despite his contributions to both law making and enforcement, Lacson has also been accused of breaking laws, particularly his implication in two high-profile murder cases.

The lawmaker was implicated in the double murders of publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2001. Lacson fled the country shortly after being suspected of involvement.

During the presidential interview with Jessica Soho, the politician says he did not breach any law “as there was no hold departure order against him then.”

Lacson was also linked to the 1995 Kuratong Baleleng murder case, where 11 members of an anti-communist vigilante group-turned-crime syndicate were slain by people from the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission led by him.

While the Supreme Court has already absolved Lacson in both cases, he repeatedly denied any involvement in the incident as it continues to haunt his campaign.  

Meanwhile, in a study by US historian Alfred McCoy on the human rights abuses under the Marcos regime, Lacson was identified as member of the infamous elite torture group Metrocom Intelligence and Security Group (MISG). The book states, he and Robert Ortega “tortured together for over a decade, forming a tight faction that would rise together within the police after Marcos’s downfall.”

Lacson denied such accusation stating that he was assigned to the “police intelligence branch” which focused on crimes such as kidnap-for-ransom and robbery and not insurgents. This was the path that sprung his rise atop the PNP.

Undeterred amid challenges

On March 24, Lacson resigned as the standard-bearer of the Partido Reporma party following their Davao del Norte slate’s decision to endorse another presidential aspirant, effectively making him an independent candidate.

The pre-election survey results also showed him far behind his rivals. Based on the recent Pulse Asia survey released on April 6, Lacson got two percent – less than his previous four percent.

On top of this, he received countless withdrawal proposals from rival camps in an attempt to boost Vice President Leni Robredo’s bid.

However, the senator remains undeterred. “I reiterate that we should not waste our votes on ‘survey politics’—we should choose a leader who is the most qualified and competent, not the one dictated by surveys,” he said in a Philstar report.

“Instead of thinking we will waste our votes on those who are qualified but not leading in the surveys, we should remember that it would be a bigger waste if we select the wrong leader who turns out to be less competent,” he added.

In a joint press conference in Manila Peninsula last Easter Sunday, Lacson reiterated that he, along with Moreno and former defense secretary Norberto Gonzales, would not drop their presidential bid amid allegations that the Robredo camp was trying to make them quit the race.

The article was previously published in the Election Issue 2022 of Atenews. Read it here: tinyurl.com/AtenewsElex2022



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