A personal photo of my wife Heidi and me with then senator and now Senate president Tito Sotto after a press conference at the original Aristocrat restaurant on Roxas Boulevard in Malate, Manila.
We can each define ambition and progress for ourselves. The goal is to work toward a world where expectations are not set by the stereotypes that hold us back, but by our personal passion, talents and interests.
— Facebook chief-operating-officer Sheryl Sandberg
IN the late 1980s and early part of 1990, I remember noticing stickers in public transportation with the letters S and the number 4 (S4S) which were clearly read on its face.
Back then it appeared like an advertisement or promo until the national elections came in 1992 when I discovered that it apparently meant “Sotto for Senator” (as some of my friends told me).
Initially, I thought the Eat Bulaga celebrity host would be like the other showbiz personalities who just hugged the limelight as a politician—using his popularity to even brighten up his career, now that he is an elected official.
I wondered what he would do in the Senate, knowing that for most people, he is just an actor or showbiz icon who delved in politics—in its glitter and mud—as so they say, politics is ‘dirty’ and no one who enters it would escape unscathed by the muck.
But not so with pareng Tito.
It turned out that his experience as vice mayor of Quezon City from 1988 to 1992 gave him enough knowledge to bring to the hallowed halls of the Senate.
And after decades of serving in the Upper House as a lawmaker, which he capped as its president, pareng Tito now seeks the vice presidency alongside his standard bearer and longtime ally, the former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief and incumbent Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson.
And both are running on the same platform that catapulted Rodrigo Duterte to Malacañang in 2016: a campaign against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption. But they added that they will be doing this in a very different manner.
As a veteran comedian and musician, pareng Tito us selling himself to the electorate as one of the more experienced candidates for next year’s polls. At 73, he has served as vice mayor of Quezon City, the most populous city in the country, as Dangerous Drugs Board chairman under the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and as senator for four terms so far, during which time he has never been absent or late in any session, hearing or inquiry.
Towards the end of his first Senate term in 1998, he was initially eyed as Arroyo’s vice presidential candidate but plans changed when Arroyo agreed to slide down to become the running mate of then-Speaker of the House Jose De Venecia Jr. or JDV.
Pareng Tito won his third senatorial term in 2010 under the banner of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, which he now chairs. It’s a national party, which counts at least 3 senators, 7 governors, 30 lawmakers and 20 mayors as allies across the country.
The first time my wife, Heidi, met the good senator, it was at the weekly Tapatan sa Aristocrat breakfast forum hosted by our late colleague Melo Acuña at the original Aristocrat restaurant at the corner of San Andres Street and Roxas Boulevard in Malate, Manila.
I introduced my better half to the good senator and instead of shaking hands with her, pareng Tito greeted my wife with the usual showbiz ‘beso-beso’, which quite surprised a few of us who were around because it was only with my wife that he did that.
And the next time around they met, it was with the ‘beso-beso’ once again. This solicited a naughty smile and a ‘kilig’ effect which I considered was a sign we were special friends to the Eat Bulaga icon and ‘never-absent and never-tardy’ senator.
Finally, if in 1992 pareng Tito started his bid for an elect position with S4S, then it’s now on a better plane as SVP, or ‘Sotto for Vice President’.
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