Newly elected Senate President Vicente Sotto III, only a day after he was chosen by majority of his colleagues to lead the chamber, quickly stood up to sweep aside criticisms on his leadership ability for the new post and the “Bayang Magiliw” slip.
The 69-year-old former majority leader, interviewed on State of the Nation television program Tuesday with Jessica Soho, responded to his critics who raised issues including, but not limited to, his allegedly “politically incorrect” remarks and his long history in show business.
Sotto, who took the top Senate post on Monday after 15 senators signed a draft resolution seeking the reorganization of the chamber’s leadership, urged his critics to look at his track record as senator, his perfect attendance and more than 100 bills he crafted which were passed.
In another interview, this time with Rappler, Sotto stood up to the criticism of netizens about his faux pas on the country’s national anthem he mistakenly called “Bayang Magiliw” instead of the correct title “Lupang Hinirang.”
He told Rappler: “They said that I plagiarized [an inspirational quote from Senator Robert F. Kennedy]?
“Of course not. It was an inspirational message coming from a pastor that was used by the Americans, and if we use it and translate it into Tagalog, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not plagiarism, because if you think that’s plagiarism, then you must think that ‘Bayang Magiliw’ is plagiarized because it was originally in Spanish, and somebody changed it into English, and somebody translated it into Tagalog unofficially.
“So is that plagiarism?”
The inspirational quote in question refers to a long-standing controversy involving Sotto from 2012. Sotto had then delivered a privilege speech against the reproductive health bill, in which he made a statement in Filipino that social media users identified as a near-verbatim translation of a speech Kennedy gave in 1966.
Even then, Sotto also defended himself by insisting that translations did not equate to plagiarism.
Many Filipinos expressed their disagreement with Sotto’s latest defense on social media.
However, this was not the only part of Sotto’s statement that sent them into an uproar.
Netizens said that while “Bayang magiliw” was the anthem’s first line, and while mistaking it for the song’s title was not uncommon, netizens expected more from the new Senate president.
In the interview with Soho, Soto said in Filipino “Maybe they do not know, or they don’t like my face, or they just don’t agree with my politics.”
Sotto stressed that he hosted a long-running noontime variety show as a third of the “Tito, Vic and Joey” tandem.
“Perhaps the easiest answer is because I’m an easy target...because of our popularity [in] Tito, Vic and Joey and [our program in Channel 7 is the longest-running in the world.] There are many competitors of the program, that’s why it is not surprising that they would see us,” he said.
Moreover, Sotto said the millions of Filipinos who voted for him outweigh his armada of bashers.
“I try to stay positive as much as possible,” the senate president said.