How Tito Sotto came to be the next Senate president

May 21, 2018 - 2:03 PM
Now that Koko Pimentel has stepped down from his Senate presidency, let's take a look at the ascent of the upper chamber's next leader. (Artwork by Uela Badayos)

Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III is once again gaining attention for the recently signed resolution passed by the Senate which elects him as the highest official within the Congress’ upper house.

Previously, Pimentel said that Sotto was his “top choice” to replace him as the Senate President, following talks of a “leadership change.”

“We in the majority bloc are close, we’ve a good teamwork and Sen. Sotto and I also have good teamwork.”

“If there’s anybody who will replace me, if I will be replaced, my top seed would be Senator Sotto,” Pimentel said.

The current Senate President noted that he is seeking reelection in 2019, and is also putting more focus on his PDP-Laban duties.

Legislative track record 

Sotto has been in the Senate for 26 years, making him the upper chamber’s most senior member. He first entered the legislative body in 1992, gaining almost 12 million votes.

In his first term, he sponsored and guided the passage of 61 Senate bills. Among the ones he was responsible for was the conversion of 25 municipalities into cities like Makati, Marikina, Pasig, Parañaque and Muntinlupa, among others.

Sotto was also among those who passed bills that provided for the establishment of tourist zones in the Philippines. Some of these were Camp John Hay, Fort Ilocandia, Pamalican Island in Palawan and Mactan, Cebu.

Sotto is also among those behind the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003 (Republic Act 9189) that developed a system for Filipino citizens abroad to elect their leaders back home.

He filed the Seat Belts Use Act of 1999 (Republic Act 8750) that requires drivers and front seat passengers to wear seat belts at all times.

He was also responsible for the Philippine Year 2000 Disclosure and Readiness Act (Republic Act 8747) that required a disclosure of statements and readiness of computer-based systems, products and services in 2000.

Sotto was similarly responsible for the creation of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency under Article IX of the Republic Act 9165 and including the “methamphetamine hydrochloride” or “shabu” in the dangerous drugs list.

SMOOTH TRANSITION. Outgoing Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III signs the resolution on Monday, May 21, 2018 electing Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III as the new leader of the chamber (Office of the Senate President photo)

He was also behind the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines (Republic Act 7925) that aimed to promote and govern the development of telecommunications in the country.

Other bills he filed that became laws are on the creation of family courts, the Optical Media Board, the Calamity Funds for the Local Government Units, the Fisheries and Aquatic Code and the Teachers and Students Assistance Fund.

His grandfather, former Senator Vicente Sotto, was the author of the Press Freedom Law (Republic Act 53) that gave reporters the right to secure their sources of information unless required by the government.

His granduncle, meanwhile, was former senator Filemon Sotto who was one of those who drafted the 1935 Constitution used by former President Manuel Roxas.

One of Senate’s most controversial 

Sotto may have been among the most popular senators of choice, but he had his moments tagged in controversies.

He was accused of plagiarizing five foreign blogs and a briefing paper for his speeches, prompting investigative journalist Raissa Robles to call him out for supporting digital piracy.

Sotto was also accused of victim-blaming a female contestant on noontime variety show “Eat Bulaga,” where he worked as a host, when he learned of how she separated from her husband.

The contestant shared that she was abused by a male friend during a drinking session. Instead of showing sympathy, Sotto told her off and said she shouldn’t drink since she’s a “woman.”

He also got the ire of various women’s groups when he blathered offending remarks to former Social Welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo for her being a single mother.

While grilling Taguiwalo at her confirmation hearing, Sotto noticed that she had two daughters out of wedlock and noted, “In the street language, when you have children and you are single, ang tawag doon ay ‘na-ano’ lang.'”

DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo during the interpolation of her Ad interim appointment at the Commision of Appointments at the Senate of the Philippines. (STAR/Geremy Pintolo)
Sotto looking on as he stands in the Senate. (The STAR/File)

The actor-turned-senator is also among the names being floated in the Pepsi Paloma rape case. Rumors claim that Sotto used his political advantage to allow longtime television co-hosts and buddies Vic Sotto, Joey de Leon and Richie D’ Horsey to get off from the accusations easily.

By that time, Sotto was a vice mayor of Quezon City. He has since denied involvement and stated that it was just a “gimmick” done by Paloma’s talent manager, Rey de la Cruz. — Art by Uela Badayos