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Lacson quits 2010 race

Senator cites high cost of presidential campaign

By TJ Burgonio, Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:43:00 06/06/2009

Filed Under: Dacer-Corbito murders, Eleksyon 2010, Elections, Politics

MANILA, Philippines?Opposition Sen. Panfilo ?Ping? Lacson dropped a bombshell friday night when he announced he was withdrawing from the 2010 presidential race, citing the huge expenses of waging a campaign as a reason.

?The time has come to face the reality that the intent to lead in this land in order to do good has become an enterprise only to those who have access to unlimited funds. I bow to that reality,? Lacson said in his pre-recorded statement.

This was the reason he said he decided not to attend Friday night?s televised Leadership Forum among prospective presidential candidates.

Lacson said he could have accepted the P200-million pork barrel allocated each senator every year so he could match the resources of well-moneyed candidates, but he chose not to for integrity?s sake.

He said reaching out to the voters, particularly in the D and E economic levels, which comprise four-fifths of the population, was tough.

?It is most expensive in a political system which has neither strong institutions nor correct procedures,? Lacson said.

Lacson rallied his supporters to back a candidate that possessed competence and character.

?Rest assured that in time, we will all join together to support a leader who could best deliver our people from the bondage they now suffer. That leader must have both the competence and character that are the preconditions to purposive leadership so imperative in these crossroads of the nation?s life,? he said.

Lacson?s shock announcement came a day after former Senior Supt. Cezar Mancao returned from the United States possibly to become a state witness at the revival of the investigation into the 2000 twin murders of publicist Salvador ?Bubby? Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito.

Mancao has implicated Lacson in the twin murder case that has hounded the former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief off and on for eight years. Lacson has repeatedly denied any role in the gruesome 2000 killings.

Lacson made the announcement in a video statement aired on ABS-CBN just before the network held the second part of its Leadership Forum at the University of the Philippines among potential presidential candidates.

Although invited, Lacson did not attend.

The presidential hopefuls who appeared at the forum?former President Joseph Estrada, Sen. Loren Legarda, Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Bayani Fernando?appeared stunned by Lacson?s withdrawal.

Malacaang downplayed the impact of Lacson?s announcement.

?It is of no consequence to the administration because he wasn?t doing well in the surveys, anyway,? presidential political adviser Gabriel Claudio told the Inquirer.

Besides, Claudio said he couldn?t recall Lacson categorically declaring his intention to run for president.

In the latest Pulse Asia survey on Filipinos? choices for president, Lacson badly trailed the first five front-runners, who included Vice President Noli de Castro, Sen. Francis Escudero, Estrada, and Senators Manuel Villar and Manuel ?Mar? Roxas.

?A pity?

Lacson also ran for president in 2004, finishing third behind President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and late movie actor Fernando Poe Jr.

Lacson?s announcement that he was quitting the presidential fight stole the thunder from the other presidential aspirants who took part in Friday night?s forum sponsored by the ABS-CBN and the University of the Philippines School of Economics.

The audience at the jampacked auditorium was silent as Lacson announced his retreat.

Estrada, who was President while Lacson was PNP chief when Dacer and Corbito were brutally murdered and their remains burned in Cavite, said: ?It?s a pity that he withdrew. He?s one of the most qualified candidates.?

Estrada didn?t categorically say if Lacson?s decision was related to the Dacer-Corbito murder cases, but said: ?Anything can happen under this administration.?

?I am surprised,? Legarda said, telling the audience she spoke with Lacson two days ago but didn?t expect him to back out of the 2010 race this early.

Legarda agreed with Lacson that the huge fund needed to bankroll a nationwide campaign was the biggest stumbling block to running for a national elective position.

Senator Escudero was also caught apparently unawares: He said in a text message: ?I?m surprised and saddened but maybe this will pave the way to bring us closer to having a unified opposition.?

Good move, says Pimentel

The drama of the moment was not lost on Legarda, who said: ?This formula for poll victory should be discredited.?

Fernando praised Lacson, saying: ?Till the very end, my friend is a gentleman.?

?I don?t know,? said Fernando, when asked if Mancao?s return had precipitated Lacson?s sudden withdrawal. Binay also praised Lacson.

Reactions from other presidential aspirants were not immediately available. Villar was travelling to the United States while Roxas had not responded to Inquirer calls by press time.

?Whatever the reasons, good move on the part of Ping,? Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said in a text message. ?Now the administration will have no political partisan reasons to harass him. He can always throw his support behind a presidential candidate.?

His decision to withdraw was the reason Lacson cited for not showing up at the debate.

Ping?s ?vision?

Lacson blasted bad governance and ?transactional politics.?

He said he made his decision to withdraw last Sunday. Before then, he said he had ?every intention? to share with Filipinos his vision of a Philippines under a Lacson presidency.

?The country?s problem is government, bad government,? he said, adding the solution lay in disciplining the 1.5 million members of the civilian and military bureaucracies and imbuing them with a ?sense of genuine public service.?

?In short, if we hope to solve the problems of most of the 90 million Filipinos, we must set government right. This is the only way we can move forward as a country, and as a people,? he said.

Starts with oneself

But Lacson said correcting the government would not be easy ?if it does not start with the leader himself.?

?One cannot discipline if one is unable to discipline oneself. One cannot preach clean government if one is himself on the take, or his relatives and cronies are themselves the thieves,? he said. ?If a president cannot lead by the power of good example, then governance will always be bad.?

Lacson said his vision consisted of the efficient delivery of basic services, such as health, education and public safety, and the institutionalization of a ?no-nonsense government? at all levels.

Feudal setup

?Sadly, what we have today is a feudal set-up foolishly labeled as democracy, where transactional politics is entrenched both in the bureaucracy and local government units, and where the poor are deluded into believing that throwing candies or giving instant noodles or occasional help in distress is the be-all and end-all of public service,? he said.

If the Filipinos ?doggedly and purposively set government right,? the rest will follow, Lacson said. With reports from Christine O. Avendao and Phillip Tubeza

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