MANILA, Philippines – He started a joke, which started the world of solo moms and their loved ones crying.
And perhaps, Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III didn’t see early on that the joke was apparently on him as his controversial “na-ano” remark about female single parents didn’t just trigger a public stir. It also prompted the filing of an ethics complaint against the lawmaker, an ex-comic whose popularity began to surge in the late 1970s by playing the naughty Joselito Escalera in the comedy show Iskul Bukol.
The five-page complaint was filed by a coalition of women’s groups on Wednesday, May 10, before the Senate Committee on Ethics, chaired by Sotto.
“Ang pangunahin naming layunin sa pagsasamapa ng aming reklamo ay maunawaan ng publiko na aming ipinaglaban na mga batas para sa pagtatanggol at pagprotekta sa karapatan ng mga kababaihan ay hindi dapat nababalewala lalo na ng mga pinuno sa ating pamahalaan, lalo na ng mga lehislador na dapat ay nauunawaan ang mga batas na ito, sa partikular ‘yong Magna Carta of Women,” Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) representative Jean Enriquez said in an interview.
[Our main objective in filing a complaint is for the public to understand that the laws that we have been fighting for to protect the rights of women should not be ignored, especially by officials of the government, especially legislators, who should be able to understand these laws, particularly the Magna Carta of Women.]
Sotto’s accusers want the senator to inhibit from hearing the complaint and are urging the panel to impose a sanction on Sotto.
On Wednesday, Sotto said he would not participate in the proceedings and file a leave of absence once he receives a copy of the complaint.
“I’m Ethics Chairman and there’s a complaint against me. It’s only proper that I file a leave out of delicadeza. I definitely have that,” Sotto told reporters in an interview.
His accusers claimed Sotto had “undermined national policies that have underpinned laws such as The Solo Parents Welfare Act or Republic Act 8972 and the Magna Carta of Women or Republic Act 9710 after he allegedly belittled Department of Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo for being a single parent, telling her during a May 3 hearing on her confirmation that she was “na-ano lang.”
CA members must also be reprimanded
The complainants also want all members of the Commission on Appointments to be reprimanded for failing to correct Sotto during the confirmation hearing and require all senators including their staffers to undergo gender sensitive training facilitated by the Philippine Commission on Women.
Sotto “showed his utter insensitivity and disregard to the hard work, strong will and determination of mothers who raise children on their own,” said the complainants led by CATW-AP, the World March of Women–Pilipinas, and the Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan.
The coalition claimed that by manifesting his view of single mothers as “less than others,” Sotto allegedly “demeaned and disparaged” women in the same position and made them “easy targets of jokes and ridicule.”
They likewise accused Sotto of epitomizing “the segment of the misogynist and macho sector of the society that considers women who are without men as less of value” and that “his language normalized the patriarchal view that men has sexual privilege over women and trivialized abandonment of responsibility over children.”
Sotto “showed his utter insensitivity and disregard to the hard work, strong will and determination of mothers who raise children on their own,” the complaint further stated. -with reports from the Philippine News Agency