Three years ago, Senator Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III was arguably the most unpopular politician in the Philippines. At that time, he positioned himself as the fiercest opponent of the Reproductive Health law – repeatedly using his position as the Senate majority leader to derail the proposed measure from advancing.
What earned him further scorn from RH law supporters is his series of Senate privilege speeches that were mostly plagiarized, either from the late United States Senator Robert F. Kennedy or from several American bloggers. Instead of being apologetic for his mistakes, Sotto even doubled down on his claims. He had to endure months of sustained attacks from RH advocates, netizens, and even from academics – with some calling for his resignation.
But even back then, The Filipino Scribe has argued that Sotto is not likely to sustain serious political damage. It is because he is not seeking reelection until 2016 and by then, the controversy would be entirely forgotten. Indeed, that’s exactly how things played out.
If the elections were held today, Sotto will emerge number one in the senatorial race. According to the latest pre-election survey by polling firm Pulse Asia, 72% of respondents will vote to give Sotto another six years in the Senate. If reelected, this will be his fourth non-consecutive term in the upper house.
Sotto topped the Senate race when he first ran in 1992 – one of the first instances of a celebrity successfully utilizing his popularity to win political office. Best known as part of the triumvirate behind the noontime show Eat Bulaga together with his brother Vic Sotto and Joey de Leon, Sotto was mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate in 1998 before ultimately choosing to seek reelection to the Senate. Term limits set by the Constitution prohibited him from seeking reelection in 2004 but he made it back to the Senate in 2010.
With a near-universal name recognition, Sotto most definitely has a huge advantage over other senatorial candidates regardless of what year he runs. However, for next year, the Senator has a secret weapon that he never had before – the love team of young actor Alden Richards and Internet celebrity Maine ‘Yaya Dub’ Mendoza popularly known as #AlDub.
Although Sotto had stated long ago that the pair will not be campaigning for any candidates, he himself is the main beneficiary of the pair’s stratospheric popularity. Even without Alden or Maine raising his hand or appearing on a television commercial for him, Sotto’s almost daily appearances on Eat Bulaga alongside the couple keep him on the public’s consciousness.
Just imagine how much candidates spend just to get airtime and improve their name recognition! Apart from that, Eat Bulaga has also been touring different barangays the past few months for their gift-giving initiative, an activity which closely resemble political campaigns.
Unless Sotto’s running for president or vice president in 2022 (he’ll be 74 at that time, so that’s perhaps not likely), being number one or twelve in the Senate race won’t matter as long as he is in the winning circle. And if that is his only goal, he can afford to just continue fooling around with Wally and Jose and not spend anything on political advertising and still win!