A sortie to northern provinces over the weekend has disproved to Partido Reporma presidential candidate Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and running mate Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III the so-called ‘Solid North’ mentality of voters for one candidate heading into the May 9 national elections.
Following a two-day visit to Baguio City and stops at Pangasinan and Nueva Ecija, the Lacson-Sotto tandem saw for themselves how warmly they were received by businessmen, farmers, and tricycle drivers as they explained their reform advocacies for the country for the next six years once they gain the people’s mandate.
Stakeholders of the transport sector were pleasantly surprised when the longtime public servants visited a forum of 400 members of a tricycle drivers and operators’ association (TODA) in Barangay San Vicente, Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, where for the first time their concerns were heard personally by high government officials.
This proved to the Lacson-Sotto tandem that Filipinos’ minds weren’t closed to voting for the most deserving candidates – even in areas considered as bastions of certain political personalities – as long as they heard the proper advocacies and programs, and their concerns were taken up and considered toward a concrete plan of action.
“As you may be aware, ‘di ba, ‘yung basta Ilocos Region mostly taga-region nila ‘yung tinatangkilik pero sa nakita namin kanina, maganda ‘yung response kasi nga issue-based na naman ‘yung tinalakay namin na mga problema,” Lacson explained in the forum in Urdaneta City, considered a gateway to Northern Luzon.
[As you may be aware, isn’t it that in the Ilocos Region, the people mostly vote for people from their own region? But as we saw earlier, we got a good response because our discussion of their problems was issue-based.]
“Gustong i-test ‘yung members ng TODA kasi nasabi ko kanina pagka Ilocano-speaking, may leanings na kung kaninong kandidato. So, gustong i-test kung ano ang magiging reaction. And surprisingly, we got the reaction that we are not expecting actually—very positive,” the three-term senator added.
[The TODA members wanted to test me because I had said earlier that if someone was Ilocano-speaking, they already had leanings for certain candidates. I also wanted to test their reaction (to us).]
The Lacson-Sotto duo has proposed that to help the public utility vehicle (PUV) sector crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic, the government should resume its subsidies to all PUV drivers, especially now that oil prices are surging with the current instabilities in oil-producing countries.
“Kaya e, kung wala ba ‘yung P700 bilyon na ninanakaw, sa bulsa lang ng kung sino-sino napupunta, kayang-kaya ‘yung fuel subsidy… Kahit tumaas pa ang halaga (ng gasolina), hindi kailangan magtaas ng pasahe ang mga public transport kung sina-subsidize ng gobyerno ‘yung fuel,” said Sotto, who is running for vice president.
[That’s why, if the P700 billion wasn’t being stolen from government every year to go into someone else’s pockets, we could easily afford a fuel subsidy… Even if prices (of oil products) increase, public transport (operators) wouldn’t need to raise fares if government is subsidizing their fuel.]
The veteran lawmakers felt the tricycle drivers’ genuine appreciation through the thunderous applause they received, especially after they explained their flagship Budget Reform Advocacy and Village Empowerment (BRAVE) program that would bring progress to the countryside.
The TODA drivers and operators also voiced their thanks to Lacson and Sotto for showing up at their meeting so they could personally give their suggestions to how the government could improve their lives and their communities.