‘Ano na, Sotto?’

Senator Vicente Sotto III did it again. And rightly so, netizens took him to task.

Sotto is notorious for his misogynist position when it comes to women’s rights. Recall that during the long battle for the passage of the Reproductive Health Law, he was among its staunchest oppositors. This is a law that respects, promotes, and actualizes women’s reproductive health and rights. Recall also that a few years back, he was instrumental in slashing the family planning budget of the Department of Health by one billion pesos.

He likes to deprive women of our human rights.

This last time, his guns were trained against Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo during the confirmation hearing of the Commission on Appointments. The lawmaker observed that Secretary Taguiwalo was single, yet she has kids. And “in a lighter note” remarked that in street parlance, those like Secretary Judy are “na-ano lang.”

To be fair to Sotto, I believe that he really was joking. However, it was a joke that betrays his bias against women, specifically, against single mothers. The joke revealed his shallow understanding of the long struggle of women against gender stereotyping and towards equality. The “joke” insulted single mothers like it is something to be ashamed of. This joke likewise made evident Sotto’s ignorance of the various reasons why women end up as single mothers by choice, or by force.

Sotto’s “na-ano lang” joke belittled challenges and difficulties faced and weathered by single moms in providing for and raising their children. He seemed to have no idea what it requires to be a single mother in the midst of a patriarchal society like ours.

Thus, Sotto’s remark, though meant as a joke, was really no joke. It was a misogynist insult on women and single mothers. I doubt very much if he would make the same joke if Secretary Taguiwalo happens to be a man. I bet many in the room would not find it funny unlike when the “joke” was made on a woman. On the contrary, I would not be surprised if the Senator would even commend a single father appointee for being able to singlehandedly look after and provide for his children. Because indeed, it is not easy.

It should also be said that the CA’s confirmation hearing is hardly the place or occasion for a joke. It is an important government proceeding that should ascertain the fitness of presidential appointees to the positions they are appointed to, and the responsibilities they are tasked to discharge. This is a serious matter where jokes, most especially those that degrade people, are out of order.

Because of people’s very strong reactions as well as media’s questioning, the “honorable” senator issued an “apology.” I put this in quotes because as far as I am concerned, Sotto’s statement was not a real apology.

An apology is defined as “a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure,” or “an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret.” I watched the media interview where Sotto was supposed to have apologized, twice. His words, facial expression, and body language showed no regret for what he has done. There was neither an acknowledgment, nor an admission of wrongdoing, even error.

Instead, he tried to rationalize his bad “joke.” He said that if people did not get his “joke,” then he was sorry. What an apology! He had the temerity to make it appear that it was people’s fault that they did not understand his joke.

Sotto also said that in CA hearings, everything and anything about the appointee is subject to scrutiny, even his/her personal life. This may be true but I will hasten to add that such type of scrutiny must be on matters relevant to the position of the appointee. Perhaps Secretary Taguiwalo’s being a single mom is relevant because after all, the DSWD position has to do with people’s welfare. I will not begrudge Sotto and other senators for the observation and Secretary Taguiwalo responded accordingly. What is irrelevant, even uncalled for, was the “joke.” There was absolutely no need for it. It was crass.

Moreover, if the “na-ano lang joke” was part of Sotto’s scrutiny of Taguiwalo, why preface it with “on a lighter note?” Sotto was not being consistent here and obviously, he was trying hard to make “palusot.” People, of course, did not buy it.

I was aghast that to placate people’s reaction, Sotto even “used” his daughters by saying that he would be the last person to disrespect women because he has two daughters who are single mothers. I am hoping here that his daughters knew that their father would say such and did not mind. After all, there is also the matter of the daughters’ right to privacy that even their parents must respect. I feel for the daughters because their father may have unwittingly also insulted their being single mothers.

The senator was quoted as asking, “why the fuss?” This really disappoints big time. He does not get why people are up in arms against his bad “joke.” He, who has the responsibility of crafting laws that will address people’s needs does not get the implications of his words and actions. What then can we expect of Tito Sotto, not the comedian but the lawmaker?

Senator Tito Sotto needs to understand why we have the Single Parents’ Law. This is in recognition of the difficulties faced by single parents and affords them some government assistance so they are able to fulfill their parental responsibilities better.

Senator Sotto must study women’s human rights. We have had enough of his misogyny and bad jokes.

Ano na, Sotto?


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Topics: Elizabeth Angsioco , Senator Vicente Sotto III , Department of Social Welfare and Development , Secretary Judy Taguiwalo , single mothers , Commission on Appointments
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