How Lacson’s Integrity, No-Nonsense Leadership Converted a ‘Foe’

From a fierce foe to a staunch supporter.

This was how former Interior Secretary Ronaldo “Ronnie” Puno described his reason for supporting – and managing – the presidential campaign of Sen. Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson.

“Si Ping Lacson, buong buhay ko sa gobyerno nang magkasama kami, magkaaway kami… Ang haba ng history namin, parang dalawang magkaklase sa isang eskwelahan na nag-a-aspire maging No. 1, di ba lagi silang magkaaway (When Ping Lacson and I served together in the government, we butted heads. We were like classmates vying for top honors. When that happens, wouldn’t they clash)?” said Puno, who now manages Lacson’s presidential campaign.

Related: Integridad at Tapat na Paglilingkod: Paano Naging Tagasuporta ni Ping ang Isang Dating Kaaway

During the Estrada administration, Lacson served as Philippine National Police chief, while Puno served as secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government. The DILG supervises the PNP.

He said one of the causes of their clashes stemmed from Estrada’s order to go after illegal gambling but exempting some gambling lords. Lacson had continued to go all-out against all illegal gambling due to his no-take policy and leadership by example.

Puno recalled that their working relationship was even marred by the filing of charges and issuing of arrest orders.

But he said he never lost respect for Lacson, who he said is the cleanest, most dedicated, most sincere, and most honest public servant. Thus he did not hesitate when Lacson’s camp reached out to him to help in his campaign.

“Sa tagal ko sa gobyerno, 25 years old nasa gobyerno na ako, wala akong nakilala – wala, wala – na kasing-linis, kasing-tino, kasing-dedicated, kasing-sincere at kasing-honest as Ping Lacson (I joined the government when I was 25 years old. Throughout my stint in government, I have never met anyone as clean, level-headed, dedicated, sincere and honest as Ping Lacson),” he said.

“Ito yung pinakamagaling na pagkakaibigan na nagmula sa away. Walang rason bakit kami magkaibigan. Walang rason bakit nandito ako ngayon (This is the best kind of friendship, one that started on the wrong foot. There was no reason for us to be friends. There was no reason for me to be here),” he added.

Puno said his goal now is to make Lacson – now the standard-bearer of Partido Reporma – defy the claims of naysayers who cite recent “surveys,” especially at this critical time for the country’s future.

“Sa survey, nalalagay tayo sa baba. Pero ang nasa baba, walang pupuntahan kundi pataas (Some surveys put us down there. But when you’re down, there’s nowhere to go but up),” he said.

“Ang sabi nila nakagawa daw ako ng tatlong Presidente. Sana sinabi nila apat: Ping Lacson (They say I helped ‘make’ three Presidents. They should have added a fourth: Ping Lacson),” he added.