VICENTE “Tito” Sotto III yesterday launched his senatorial bid in Cebu City.

Sotto believes he is off to a good start in choosing Cebu as his launching pad in his bid to return to the Senate. He was off to a three-day campaign sortie in Cebu.

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“My roots are from Cebu, I believe it’s a lucky start for me. I always start my campaign on my right foot and Cebu is my right foot,” he told reporters.

Local supporters and political leaders, some clad in white and green shirts bearing Sotto’s name, showed up at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral where Sotto, his wife Helen Gamboa and daughter Lala Sotto attended a 9:30 a.m. mass.

It was also a thanksgiving mass of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency for its outstanding performance in the anti-drug campaign in Central Visayas.

Sotto, a former senator, is optimistic he has a better chance in his comeback bid this year, compared to the 2007 polls where he lost along with other administration candidates.

“I was with a coalition party then that did not strategize well. The opposition was also very strong,” he said.

Sotto said the group also suffered a setback because of the stigma brought about by the Arroyo administration.

He lamented that the party itself was detrimental to his senatorial bid then.

Since the Nationalist People’s Coalition has no presidential bet or official lineup, Sotto is running as an independent.

Adopt

Unlike other candidates who adopt programs after declaring their candidacy, Sotto said his running for the Senate is actually an offshoot of his anti-drug advocacy.

Sotto said the Senate is a “necessary tool” to strengthen the government’s anti-drug programs.

The former Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) chief intends to amend Republic Act (RA) 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, to pave way for the setting up of special drug court.

To be manned by three justices similar to the Sandiganbayan, this special court aims to expedite the disposition of drug cases, he said.

Sotto said all appeals will be elevated directly to the Supreme Court (SC) instead of passing through the appellate courts.

Sotto said that in the past, drug-related cases got stalled at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) for six to seven years.

If the accused was found guilty, the case was appealed before the Court of Appeals where it would remain pending for six years.

After the CA affirmed the RTC decision, the case was elevated to the Supreme Court and would take another five years to resolve.

Advocacy

He said that eradicating illegal drugs is his advocacy because it is also just like reducing crimes by 80 percent.

“Eradicating illegal drug problem in the country can help reduce crime rate and can also help improve the economy.

This is the reason why I am running for senator,” said Sotto, a grandson of the late Senator Vicente Sotto after whom the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City is named.

Sotto also said he will propose a national penitentiary for convicts of drug cases once he is back in the Senate.

He said the penitentiary may replace the Iwahig Penal Colony in Palawan.

All illegal drug convicts will be placed in one area.

He said there must not be any communication link between the convicts and their contacts in the drugs business.

At a DDB drug forum at the Southwestern University, Sotto told students about the importance of strengthening the laws to combat illegal drugs.

In his stint in the Senate, he crafted RA 9165, which overhauled the old RA 6425, the old Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972.

Enforcement and prosecution of drug cases are not enough to fight drugs, he said. Prevention, rehabilitation and implementation of alternative programs are equally important, he said.