Senate President Vicente Sotto III got flak Friday for his remarks about copping a feel—an idiom for touching someone in a sexual way without someone’s permission—during an interpellation in the chamber two days earlier on the proposed bill on Safe Spaces.
Netizens rapped Sotto III, who turns 70 on Aug. 24, in regard to his remarks during interpellation about touching or doing—in the Tagalog lingo “hipo”—while Senate Bill 1326 or the Safe Spaces bill was being discussed.
During the debate on the bill on Aug. 1, Sotto asked the bill’s sponsor, Senator Risa Hontiveros, on whether the provision on gender-based street and public harassment under SB 1326 was similar to the anti-discrimination provisions of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) bill.
GMA News quoted Hontiveros as saying the proposed Safe Streets Act zeroed in on “unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a person in a public space without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation and identity.”
Only a day earlier, Sotto asked his online critics not to be judgmental and branded as “fake news” unpublished online articles linking him to the alleged rape and death of ‘80s star Pepsi Paloma.
By Friday, Sotto was facing verbal gunfire from two directions: the first, over his “hipo” or stroke comment during an interpellation in the Senate on the Safe Spaces measure; the other online articles linking him to Paloma.
The SOGIE Equality Bill or the Anti-Discrimination Bill prohibits “discrimination on the basis of” SOGIE in terms of access to public service, including military service; employment, education, accreditation, medical service, or imposition of harsher sanctions.
Sotto then asked if the act of harassment in public spaces or streets in the bill was being “limited” by the qualifier “gender based,” and what acts would be considered as harassment, according to GMA News.
“Are we not limiting the act of harassment when it’s committed on streets and public spaces by including the qualifier, gender based?” Sotto said.
GMA News quoted Sotto as saying later in a mix of Tagalog and English, “For example, ‘yung sinabi ko na binibiro lang, hinipuan na ganun, will they be liable? You (Hontiveros) said yes, the answer I think is no.”
Hontiveros answered that gender would not limit whoever might file a complaint under the Safe Spaces Act, adding the hypothetical victim in Sotto’s example might file harassment charges against the person who touched him if he felt offended.
Sotto’s responses earned criticism from social media users, with some pointing out that molestation was a crime, with others sharing their experiences with public harassment.
On the Paloma case, Sotto told Tina Monson-Palma in an interview aired Thursday on ANC: “To me, these are disinformation. Once people know what is true, they’ll see it’s not. I have decided to brush them aside and not pay attention to this type of disinformation, ‘yan mga ‘original fake news.’”