House Deputy Speaker Lito Atienza on Monday said he will not back out from the 2022 vice presidential race.
“Definitely not. No withdrawal for me,” Atienza said in an interview.
Atienza earlier said he is considering pulling out of the vice presidential race and said he wants Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III to run with Pacquiao to provide a stronger challenge against the frontrunners, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) and his tandem Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Atienza, however, rejected the suggestion of presidential bet Senator Panfilo Lacson to make his running mate, Sotto, the common vice presidential candidate of Pacquiao.
He said such a suggestion would only boost the Marcos-Duterte tandem more.
“With that idea of Ping, there’ll be no movement. You’ll be stuck. It will strengthen Bongbong Marcos,” he said.
Earlier, Pacquiao said he may opt to support his colleague, Sotto, if and when Atienza backs out from the 2022 race.
“Kung sakaling mag-desisyon sya [Atienza] na ano, ang naiisip namin ang pupwede lang ay si Sen. Vicente Sotto [If Atienza decides to back out, our only option is Senator Vicente Sotto],” Pacquiao said.
The 80-year-old Atienza underwent knee surgery in February and has since been unable to join campaign activities. “Ang mga senior inaalagaan natin. Kung ‘di nya kaya, ‘wag nyang pilitin [We take care of our senior citizens. If he is not up to it, he should not force it],” Pacquiao said.
Lacson, for his part, reiterated that he would not withdraw from the May 9 elections.
“For the nth time, I will finish this race and I am not backing out. I reject the call of Rep. Jose ‘Lito’ Atienza for me to withdraw from the presidential race,” he said in a statement forwarded to reporters.