Atienza hints to drop VP bid if Lacson quits

House Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza on Thursday said he is seriously considering withdrawing from the vice-presidential race—and will do so if Senator Panfilo Lacson, who has been lagging in surveys, will abandon his presidential bid.

Lito Atienza

This would free up their running mates, Senator Manny Pacquiao and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, to form a new tandem with a little over a month before the May 9 elections.

Lacson, however, rejected Atienza’s call and even said he was insulted by it.

“That’s kabastusan (vulgarity) to say the least. For somebody like him who’s older than me to say a candidate should back out without even consulting (the person), that’s insulting,” Lacson said in a press conference in Kalawit, Zamboanga del Norte.

Now an independent candidate after his previous party switched its support to Vice President Leni Robredo, Lacson said he has rejected calls to back out “for the nth time.”

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“I’ll finish this race and I’m not backing out. I would suggest that Lito Atienza should go back to school and study GMRC (good manners and right conduct), which law I authored,” he said.

However, reacting to Atienza’s endorsement, Sotto said he is humbled and “will certainly appreciate” such a move for the party-list lawmaker to give way to him.

“Lito Atienza has, is, and will always be a true statesman!” added Sotto.

“Very seriously,” Atienza told reporters when asked if he is considering backing out from the vice-presidential race, later adding that his decision is “almost final.”

Panfilo Lacson

Pacquiao earlier said Atienza is endorsing Sotto – who had convinced Lacson to avert retirement to make a second run for the presidency following his 2004 bid — as his replacement.

“I’m praying and hoping that Ping — he already knows the realities of his political position. I hope he backs out, too.

That would change the whole structure to completely demolish a Sara-Bongbong tandem,” Atienza said, referring toformer senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, both leaders in pre-election surveys.

“Kung uurong siya [If he would back out] and he will do that self-sacrificing act, sino ba naman ako [Who am I]? I will also formally withdraw and commit and offer it to the Filipino nation of my withdrawal from this particular race.

Because I don’t want to meddle in a partnership. Kung tuloy ang partnership ni Ping at Tito, I don’t want to be the thirdman in the relationship,” he added.

Atienza said a Pacquiao-Sotto tandem would be a hit among voters and can defeat a Marcos-Duterte “myth.”

“If and when I decide, that’s it. All our people will veer toward Tito Sotto. Tito is another man I’ve known a long time ago, he’s a solid pro-lifer. He’s a defender of the culture of life,” said the Buhay party-list lawmaker.

Lacson noted that the GMRC law, which he authored in the Senate, was returned to elementary schools so Filipinos will have good values.

“Who is he to tell me to withdraw? He has no personality, I’m not backing out,” the former national police chief, 73, said of the 80-year-old Atienza, who recently had knee surgery and has been unable to campaign with Pacquiao.

Sought for his comment on Sotto being adopted by another presidentiable, Lacson said he wouldn’t mind “as long as he endorses only me.”

“So, anything that will boost (Sotto’s) candidacy, I’m all for it. If he will be adopted as their vice-presidential candidate, so be it, I will welcome it because I know where he stands, I know where I stand,” he said.

Lacson also said he will not prevent Sotto from attending any of Pacquiao’s campaign rallies.

The three-term senator’s spokesman, Ashley “Ace” Acedillo, added in a statement: “Congressman Atienza, ano bang tinatakbuhan mong posisyon, di ba, Vice President? Anong lugar mo to make that demand on Sen. Lacson? [What position are you running for? What’s your place to make that demand?]”

“Kung mag-wi-withdraw ka, go ahead, that’s your call. Huwag kang mandamay, Cong. Lito. What you said is not only out of place, it is out of whack. Gayunpaman, magpagaling kayo [If you are withdrawing, go ahead, that’s your call. Don’t bring others down, Cong. Lito. Even then, get well soon],” added Acedillo, who was briefly a party-list congressman like Atienza.

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