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 will abandon his presidential bid.
"Very seriously," Atienza told reporters when asked if he is considering backing out from the vice presidential race. He later added that his decision is "almost final."
Senator Manny Pacquiao, another presidential contender in the upcoming elections, earlier said Atienza, his running-mate, is endorsing Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III as his replacement. Sotto is Lacson's running mate.
"I'm praying and hoping 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 to the tandem of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, both leaders in pre-election surveys.
"Kung uurong siya [If he backs 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 of this particular race. Because I don't want to meddle in a partnership. Kung tuloy ang partnership ni Ping at Tito [If the Ping-Tito partnership continues], I don't want to be the third man in the relationship," he added.
Sought for comment, Lacson rejected Atienza's call and even said he was insulted by it.
"That's kabastusan to say the least. For somebody like him, na mas matanda pa sa akin, na magsabing magba-back out ang isang kandidato without even consulting, that's insulting," Lacson said in a press conference in Kalawit, Zamboanga del Norte.
(That's disrespect, to say the least. For somebody like him, who is older than me, to say a candidate should back out without even consulting, that's insulting.)
Lacson, who is now an independent candidate after Partido Reporma switched its support to Vice President Leni Robredo, said he has rejected such calls "for the nth time."
"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, which law I authored," he said.
'May usapan kami'
Lacson added that he won't prohibit Sotto from joining Pacquiao's sorties but his running mate should follow their agreement not to endorse any presidential candidate.
"I won't prevent Senate President Sotto from attending any of Manny Pacquiao's rally. May usapan kami [We have an agreement] as long as he endorses only me. Kasi yon ang usapan namin, even our senatorial candidates from other parties," Lacson said.
"That is for their own good, more exposure, more endorsement, that will help them achieve their goals. Pero once na mag-endorse ng ibang presidential candidate, ibang usapan 'yon [But once they endorse another candidate, that will be a different matter] and I trust Senate President Sotto dahil sa tinagal ng pagsasama namin, alam namin, nagkakintindihan, miski hindi kami magkausap, miski may mga desisyon na hindi namin ikonsulta to each other, alam namin where we stand, alam namin ang advocacies namin, alam namin ang pinaglalaban namin, at alam namin ang pinagusapan namin," he added.
(I trust Senate President Sotto because with our friendship, we already understand each other even if we don't talk about a certain matter or decision, we know where we stand. We know our advocacies and we know what we fight for.)
Atienza, meanwhile, said a Pacquiao-Sotto tandem would be a hit among voters and can defeat the Marcos-Duterte "myth."
"If and when I decide, that's it. All our people will veer towards 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," he said. — with Hana Bordey/KBK/BM, GMA News