MANILA, Philippines Â- Citing what he called a setup favoring the moneyed, Sen. Panfilo Lacson announced Friday evening he is "retiring" from the presidential race for 2010.
Lacson made the announcement through a pre-recorded message at a leadership forum featuring prospective presidential bets at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.
"Reaching out to the voters, particularly those in the D and E income levels, which altogether comprise some four-fifths of the population, does not come easy. It is most expensive in a political system which has neither strong institutions nor correct procedures," he said in his message.
"The time has come to face the reality that the intent to lead in this land in order to do good, has become an enterprise only for those who have access to unlimited funds... I bow to that reality, which is why I have chosen not to participate any more in this laudable forum of those who seek the presidency of the land," he added.
LacsonÂ's surprise announcement came a day after former police Senior Superintendent Cezar Mancao II, who was extradited to the Philippines from the United States, told media that he was ready to reaffirm his affidavit implicating Lacson and former President Joseph Estrada in the Dacer-Corbito double murder case in 2000.
He did not make any mention of Mancao in his recorded message, but his camp earlier said they were expecting the government to have hatched a "sweet deal" as part of move to derail his political plans.
Mancao has claimed in a sworn statement submitted to the Department of Justice that he overheard Lacson, who was then Philippine National Police (PNP) chief in 2000, instructing Senior Superintendent Michael Ray Aquino to dispose of veteran publicist Salvador Â"Bubby" Dacer on orders of Estrada.
Lacson has denied having any hand in the twin murders and claimed the issue implicating him was just being revived because of his unrelenting attacks against the Arroyo administration.
His "retirement" is expected to be welcomed by the political opposition, which is finding it hard to unite behind one candidate. Apart from Lacson, members of the opposition who have announced interest in seeking the presidency are Sen. Manuel Roxas II, Loren Legardo, Francis Escudero, Manuel Villar, and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay,
Lacson hinted he may support a leader who can "best deliver our people from the bondage they now suffer."
"Rest assured that in time, we will all join together to support a leader who could best deliver our people from the bondage they now suffer. That leader must have both the competence and character that are the preconditions to purposive leadership so imperative in these crossroads of the nationÂ's life," he said.
The message was also posted on his website (http://www.pinglacson.net/news/54) Friday night.
Lacson said what the country has today is a "feudal setup foolishly labeled as democracy," where transactional politics is entrenched both in the bureaucracy and local government units.
Under such a setup, he added the poor are deluded into believing that throwing candies or giving instant noodles or occasional help in distress is the be-all and end-all of public service.
"In the grind for survival, the poor forget all too often that the occasional goodies they get are mere scraps from the tables of the immoderately greedy powerful who plunder public coffers, or abuse power for self-profit," he said.
Lacson admitted that he was tempted to avail of his P200-million pork barrel allocation for his campaign.
"Minsan ay sumagi na rin sa aking isipan na tanggapin na ang 200 milyong pisong pork barrel bawat taon para sa isang senador upang magamit at makasabay man lang sa isang magastos na pangangampanya. Nguni't, at mabuti na lamang, nanaig pa rin sa aking isipan na ipagpatuloy ang isang adhikain at paniniwala na higit sa ano pa mang bagay, mas mahalaga ang integridad sa isang tulad kong inihalal ng bayan upang maglingkod nang tapat at walang halong pag-iimbot [It had crossed my mind to avail of the P200-million pork barrel fund for senators just to keep up with the other candidates. But I thought better of it. In the end, integrity and honest service are more valuable]," he said.
He also cited a quote from Charles de Gaulle of France, who put order back in a land wracked by anarchy, that Â"in order to become the master, the politician poses as the servant."
"Like his forebear Nostradamus, he might have foreseen the Philippine political scene of this generation," he said.
"But I refuse to lie. And I refuse to purvey make-believe storyboards and saturate the airwaves with fairy tales," he added.
Lacson lamented that even if he tried to communicate the truth to people given "extremely limited resources" he could raise from well-meaning friends, "the time has come to face the reality that the intent to lead in this land in order to do good, has become an enterprise only for those who have access to unlimited funds."
"I bow to that reality, which is why I have chosen not to participate any more in this laudable forum of those who seek the presidency of the land. And I beg your favor that you read this message that springs from my heart," he said.
Lacson appealed to the learned and the highly educated in society to share their thoughts and help guide the vulnerable 80% of the Filipino electorate to vote wisely and conscientiously, "not for their day to day personal needs, but for a country that we all love and care for.""Magkaisa po tayong tumulong sa isang taong batay sa karanasan at sa ugali, ay alam nating hindi magnanakaw at hindi gagamitin ang kapangyarihang hiram para magpasasa sa sariling interes. Maraming salamat po. Mabuhay ang sambayanang Pilipino (Let us unite to support a leader who will not steal and use stolen power to advance his own interests. Thank you. Long live the Filipino people)!" he said.