Senator Vicente Sotto III has just been named the third most powerful person in government. He took over the Senate presidency last week from Senator Aquilino Pimentel III.
A long-time lawmaker and local government executive, Sotto is also known for his role in a comedy show and as a host in a noontime program. He’s proud of this latter tag—“I don’t mind people calling me a mere comedian...I take everything as a compliment,” he said.
He pointed to his track record—his perfect attendance at Senate sessions and the dozens of laws he had helped pass. He said he would ignore his bashers and focus instead on the challenges of his position.
He said he wants to maintain the dignity of the Senate.
We certainly understand the people’s apprehension. Sotto could be a polarizing figure. Remember his staunch opposition to the reproductive health bill on what he said were moral grounds? How he said a single mother was “na-ano”? How he shamelessly used the words of another and passed them off as his own? None of these are laughing matters, or issues that should be trivialized.
It’s not the background in comedy but these, done when he was already in public service, are what the critics are worried about. There is already so much perceived bigotry, intolerance and hatred, even misogyny, in other branches of the government. One more such official could be one too many.
We need lawmakers who take their mandate seriously, and that means showing up for work and, true to their job title, making laws. We also need an effective counterbalance to the many forces that threaten to tear our independent institutions apart. Moreover, we need leaders who will lead us to think we are moving forward in how we see the world and conduct ourselves—not the other way around.
Sotto is seen as a funnyman, not because he starred in comedy shows or movies, but because he apparently believes some issues should be taken lightly and that a patriarchal mindset still applies. Now he has his chance to prove he is dead serious.