MANILA—An ethics complaint against Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III was filed in the Senate on Wednesday after his controversial remark about single parents in a previous hearing with the Commission on Appointments (CA) last week.
During the hearing on the confirmation of Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo last May 3, Sotto cracked a joke about her admitting to being a single mother which caused a public stir.
A coalition of women’s groups filed the five-page complaint before the Senate Committee on Ethics, which Sotto chairs, at around 2:30 p.m.
These groups include the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), the World March of Women–Pilipinas (WMW), Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK) among others.
The complaint said Sotto “undermined national policies that have underpinned laws such as The Solo Parents Welfare Act (Republic Act 8972) and the Magna Carta of Women (Republic Act 9710).”
It also said that he “manifested that he views single/solo mothers as less-than others; demeaning and disparaging women in the same position and making them easy targets of jokes and ridicule.”
It noted that he “epitomizes the segment of the misogynist and macho sector of the society that considers women who are without men as less of value” and that “his language normalized the patriarchal view that men has sexual privilege over women and trivialized abandonment of responsibility over children.”
Sotto “showed his utter insensitivity and disregard to the hard work, strong will and determination of mothers who raise children on their own,” the complaint said.
Moreover, the complaint noted that not a single member of the CA corrected or commented on Sotto’s remark which they found “alarming.”
The group wanted Sotto to inhibit himself as chair of the Senate Committee on Ethics and wanted the committee to impose a sanction against him.
They also sought for all members of the CA to be reprimanded for failing to correct Sotto and require all senators including their staff to undergo Gender Sensitive Training facilitated by the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW).
“Ang pangunahin naming layunin sa pagsasamapa ng aming reklamo ay maunawaan ng publiko na an gaming ipinaglaban na mga batas para sa pagtatanggol at pagprotekta sa karapatan ng mga kababaihan ay hindi dapat nababalewala lalo na ng mga pinuno sa ating pamahalaan, lalo na ng mga lehislador na dapat ay nauunawaan ang mga batas na ito, sa particular yung Magna Carta of Women,” CATW-AP representative Jean Enriquez said in an interview.
(“Our main objective in filing a complaint is so that the public will understand that the laws that we have been fighting for to protect the rights of women should not be ignored, especially by officials of the government officials and legislators who should be able to understand these laws, particularly the Magna Carta of Women,” CATW-AP representative Jean Enriquez said in an interview.)
Enriquez said the group did not believe that Sotto’s apology was a “real apology” and that people who stayed in the streets used the same language.
Sotto, for his part, said that once he receives an official copy of the complaint, he will file an indefinite leave and allow Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Vice Chair of the Committee, to take over.
“I’m Ethics Chairman and there’s a complaint against me. It’s only proper that I file a leave out of delicadeza. I definitely have that,” Sotto told reporters in an interview.
The senator said that he has not yet read the complaint but stressed that it was a “welcome thing” and would let Lacson determine if the complaint had “form and substance.”
“I haven’t read the complaint but we live in a democracy, we have freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom to waste our time so it’s a welcome thing,” Sotto said.
Sotto further described the complaint as a “blessing in disguise” noting that filing an indefinite leave would mean that he would get to take a break from reviewing several ethics complaints filed against colleague, detained Sen. Leila de Lima.
“…It might be another blessing in disguise because automatically I will inhibit myself then take leave from the Committee on Ethics and that will solve my dilemma with Sen. de Lima since Sen. Lacson will take over,” he added.
This complaint came a day after Sotto met with members of the Federation of Solo Parents and assured them that there will be amendments to the Solo Parents Welfare Act of 2000.