Senate race shaping up as ‘veterans’ eye comeback

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 21) — Former lawmakers will join reelectionists in the 2022 senatorial race –- a development welcomed by Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III as he and other seasoned senators are bidding the chamber goodbye.

Sotto, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, and Minority Leader Franklin Drilon are on their second consecutive six-year term. They have all been lawmakers for decades, but the Constitution limits senators to two consecutive six-year terms.

In an interview with Senate reporters on Monday, Sotto said it’s a good thing that former Senators Loren Legarda and Francis “Chiz” Escudero are running in 2022 under the Nationalist People’s Coalition, where he is acting party chairman.

Malaking bagay iyon. Yes oo, that’s a welcome development. At least eh mababalik doon ‘yung mga antigo. Well, forgive me for the word antigo, hindi, for the experience… the veterans,” he said.

[Translation: That’s a big deal. Yes, that’s a welcome development. At least, the antigos will be back. Well, forgive me for the word antigo, no, for the experience…the veterans.]

Legarda, who is now Deputy Speaker and representative of the lone district of Antique, and Escudero, the current governor of Sorsogon province, both confirmed their Senate bids to CNN Philippines.

“I believe that as senator, I will be able to continue the unfinished work that I had in 2019 without forgetting, without neglecting the work I am doing in Antique. In fact, I believe that I can be more effective in bringing the national government programs closer to my home province of Antique if I were senator,” Legarda said in a phone interview.

The three-time senator said that as former chair of the finance committee, she can help ensure the 2023 national spending plan would provide “for a swifter, accessible, and affordable pandemic recovery, focusing on health and jobs, employment, and economic livelihood.”

Escudero likewise said in a statement that he wants to contribute in crafting policies that would help Filipinos “recover economically, socially and psychologically from the pandemic at the soonest possible time.” He served as representative of the first district of Sorsogon from 1998 to 2007 and senator from 2007 to 2015.

Ejercito and Honasan

Aside from Legarda and Escudero, Sotto said former Senator JV Ejercito will also be part of the NPC’s senatorial slate. But in a text message to CNN Philippines, Ejercito said nothing is final yet.

Ejercito said he wants to oversee the implementation of his pet measures, including the Universal Health Care Act, which he sponsored in the Senate. He said he would run if there are available campaign funds, even if he may again have to compete with his half-brother, former Senator Jinggoy Estrada.

"I am running because of my advocacy and unfinished business regardless," Ejercito said. "Funds permitting."

Sotto said Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gringo Honasan also plans to run as an independent senatorial candidate, but he could be “adopted” by the NPC. Honasan, a four-time senator, has yet to respond to CNN Philippines’ request for comment.

The reelectionists

Meanwhile, nine senators are expected to run for reelection or a higher office in 2022. They are Senators Leila de Lima, Sherwin Gatchalian, Richard Gordon, Risa Hontiveros, Ping Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, Kiko Pangilinan, Joel Villanueva, and Majority Leader Miguel Zubiri.

Pangilinan told CNN Philippines he and De Lima will run under the opposition Liberal Party. Villanueva, Hontiveros, and Zubiri are also expected to seek reelection.

Gatchalian, Gordon, Lacson, and Pacquiao have yet to announce their plans, but they are among the possible presidential and vice-presidential aspirants next year.