Tito Sotto

Tito Sotto

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Tito Sotto the incumbent Senate president, has served in Congress for almost two decades and has authored over 100 laws.

He has often been tagged as a conservative lawmaker, largely because he continues to block the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill in the Senate, claiming that some of its provisions trample on religious and academic freedom as well as women’s rights.

He also opposed the Reproductive Health Law when it was still being debated in the upper chamber but has since clarified that he has no issue with the enacted law which, unlike the Senate bill, does not permit abortion, population control and abortifacients.

Although Sotto, along with his running-mate Sen. Panfilo Lacson, is running as an alternative to the Duterte administration who will restore trust in the government, the Senate under his leadership has generally legislated according to the incumbent president’s agenda.

Sotto is the principal author of the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and has long supported the administration’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs which he vows to improve by employing a “holistic approach” if elected.

Several other members of Sotto’s family are making bids for public office. His son Gian Sotto and his nephew Vico Sotto are both seeking reelection as vice mayor of Quezon City and mayor of Pasig City, respectively. Nina Sotto, the Senate president’s niece-in-law, is running to replace her husband Wahoo Sotto as Parañaque 2nd District councilor.

Full Name: Vicente “Tito” Castelo Sotto III
Birthdate: August 24, 1948 (Age 74)
Birthplace: Manila
Religion: Catholic
Languages Spoken: Filipino, English
Parents:
Marcelino Antonio Ojeda Sotto; father
Dr. Herminia Castelo Sotto; mother
Siblings:
Valmar Castelo Sotto; actor, host, comedian
Marvic Valentin Castelo Sotto; singer and composer
Marital Status: Helen Gamboa Sotto
Children:
Romina Frances Sotto
Diorella Maria Sotto
Gian Carlo Sotto
Ciara Anna Sotto

Education:

  • Executive Program for Leaders in Development at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government that he completed in June 2000
  • AB English, Colegio de San Juan de Letran

Work Experience:

  • Senate President (2018-present)
  • Senate Majority Floor Leader (2016-2018)
  • Senator (2013-2016)
  • Senate Majority Floor Leader (2010-2013)
  • Dangerous Drugs Board chairman (2008-2009)
  • Senator (1998-2004)
  • Senator (1992-1998)

Major Accomplishments

In the 18th Congress alone, Sotto authored at least 12 laws including the pandemic relief and stimulus measures known as Bayanihan I and II.
He is also the principal author of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, a controversial law that 37 groups of petitioners asked the Supreme Court to strike down over its alleged draconian provisions, including those allowing sweeping powers to the Anti-Terrorism Council, vague definitions of terrorism that critics say impede on basic freedoms, as well as prolonged detention even for those arrested without a warrant.

The high court has upheld most of the law, a decision Sotto hailed as a supposed win over terrorists. Two Aeta farmers were the first to be charged under the law for alleged violation of Section 4. They were detained for a year before a court ruled that prosecution evidence was insufficient.

Tito Sotto has had a complicated relationship with the media. On the one hand, he authored R.A. No. 11458, expanding protections for media practitioners under Republic Act No. 53, also known as the Press Freedom Law which was authored by his grandfather Vicente Sotto. The amendments passed by the younger Sotto allowed broadcast and online journalists to enjoy the same right as print reporters to keep their sources confidential. However, Sotto also inserted a last-minute provision criminalizing cyber libel in the Cybercrime Act of 2012. He did this shortly after claiming he was being “cyberbullied’ because he was drawing flak online for allegedly plagiarizing several people, including the late US Sen. Robert Kennedy, in a speech he made opposing what was then the Reproductive Health Bill. Sotto had warned his critics to be wary of the cybercrime law, the cyber libel provision of which has been assailed by media practitioners as a tool used by the Duterte administration to curtail press freedom and punish critics including Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. The government denies this and maintains that the cases against Ressa were filed by private citizens. In June 2018, Sotto asked Inquirer.net to take down several stories that tagged him in the controversial rape case of actress Pepsi Paloma. Less than a month later, the articles were inaccessible on Inquirer’s news site, with the outlet explaining in a statement that they were being reviewed. The stories have not gone back up since.

Vicente “Tito” Castelo Sotto III is a Filipino politician and television presenter serving as the Senate President of the Philippines since 2018. Following the 2016 elections, he is currently serving his fourth term in the Senate, having served two consecutive terms from 1992 to 2004; he was re-elected to the Senate in 2010. Prior to serving in the Senate, Sotto had served as the Vice Mayor of Quezon City from 1988 to 1992.

Sotto is a former actor, comedian, music producer, songwriter, golfer and bowler. Sotto founded and produced the musical group VST & Co., one of the pioneers of the Manila sound, which included his brothers Vic and Val Sotto. Sotto is a co-host of Eat Bulaga!, the longest-running variety show in Philippine television history. He is also a grandson and grandnephew of former Senators Vicente Y. Sotto and Filemon Sotto respectively.

Sotto was born on August 24, 1948.His parents were Marcelino Antonio Ojeda Sotto Sr. and Dr. Herminia Castelo Sotto. His siblings are Valmar (born 1945), Marvic Valentin (born 1954), and Marcelino Antonio Jr. (born 1951).

Sotto’s paternal grandfather and namesake was former senator Vicente Sotto (1877–1950). Vicente’s brother, Filemon (1872–1966) also served as a senator and was one of those who drafted the 1935 Constitution.

Sotto studied at Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Intramuros, Manila for his elementary, high school, and college education, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in English.

Sotto’s career started in the 1960s when he joined the combo Tilt Down Men; one of its members was his brother Val. The band played covers of the Dave Clark Five and later he became the vice president of Vicor Music Corporation. Vicor founder Orly Ilacad also had a career in the 1960s like Sotto, Orly Ilacad & the Ramrods. In 1977, he was the vocalist for the short-lived group Bluejeans. He wrote the music for “Balatkayo” by Anthony Castelo which was Castelo’s hit. He also formed the Manila sound group VST & Company on which the meaning of VST were his initials. Among his notable compositions is “Magkaisa”, which is recognized as one of the anthems of the 1986 People Power Revolution.

Political career

Sotto was vice mayor of Quezon City from 1988 to 1992. He founded the Vice-Mayors’ League of the Philippines and served as its first president. During this period, Sotto was also named Vice Chairman of Citizens’ Drugwatch

Sotto was elected to the Senate of the Philippines in the 1992 senatorial election, topping the tally with nearly 12 million votes, more than 3 million more than his second place ranker.This made him the third member of his family to enter the Senate, after his grandfather Vicente Yap Sotto and granduncle Filemon Sotto. He served as Assistant Majority Floor Leader, was a member of the Commission on Appointments, and served as chairman on several senate committees. In the 1998 senatorial election, Sotto earned another term in the Senate with a third place finish, the best result among Senators vying for re-election.

From April 30 to May 1, 2001, together with Juan Ponce Enrile, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson and Miriam Defensor Santiago, he led the EDSA III protests in support of Joseph Estrada.On May 1, 2001, the protesters stormed Malacañang Palace. In spite of this, he ran for another term in the Senate in 2007 under the TEAM Unity coalition backed by the Arroyo administration, but was unsuccessful, finishing in 19th place.

Sotto was appointed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as a member of the board of directors and acting chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board on July 4, 2008, succeeding Anselmo Avenido whose term was expiring that day. The appointment was just over one year after his failed 2007 senatorial bid. Philippine election laws forbid defeated candidates from being appointed to government posts within a year of the election.

Sotto won election to another term in the Philippine Senate in the 2010 senatorial election, as a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

Upon the commencement of the 15th Congress on July 26, 2010, he was elected by the majority of his fellow Senators as the Majority Leader of the Senate as well as the Chairman of its Committee on Rules, thus he manages the legislative affairs of the Senate, particularly on the floor during the sessions. He was also one of the 20 Senators that voted to convict Chief Justice Renato Corona and to remove him from office on May 29 of that year.

In July 2013, at the end of the 15th congress, Sotto resigned as the Majority Leader following the resignation of Juan Ponce Enrile, his staunch political mentor, as Senate President. Enrile resigned due to allegations of misusing the Senate funds. Then assistant majority leader Senator Gregorio Honasan became the acting Majority Leader following Sotto’s resignation.

On the commencement of the session of the 16th Congress, on July 22, 2013, Sotto became part of the new Senate minority group. He was chosen by his colleagues in the minority to be the Deputy Floor Leader, second-in-command to Enrile who became the Minority Leader. In July 2014, following Enrile’s arrest on charges of plunder relating to the pork barrel scam, Sotto became the acting Minority Floor Leader. Enrile resumed his position as the Minority Floor Leader after he was granted bail by the Supreme Court in August 2015.

In 2013, Sotto filed a bill that would mandate all government and non-government employees to receive a 14th month of annual salary. Responding to the Department of Labor and Employment claims that the bill would worsen unemployment if implemented, Sotto said that the existing 13th month pay is not truly a bonus because there are actually 13 months in a year. “There are 52 weeks in a year divide it by four weeks in a month. Thirteen months.”

Senator Sotto was re-elected in the 2016 elections. With 17.2 million votes, he finished in third place for the twelve contested senate seats. On July 25, 2016, during the opening of the 17th Congress, Sotto was again elected as Majority Leader. He was also elected as chairman of the Senate committee on rules and the Senate committee on ethics and privileges. Being a member of the NPC, Sotto is part of the “supermajority” coalition led by the PDP–Laban, the political party of President Rodrigo Duterte and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.

Sotto has expressed his support for the revival of the death penalty, but only for “high level drug trafficking“.

On May 3, 2017, during the Commission on Appointments’ (CA) hearing on Judy Taguiwalo’s appointment as Secretary of Social Welfare and Development, Sotto, a member of the CA, made controversial remarks which seemed to belittle Taguiwalo for being a single parent.

One of Taguiwalo’s daughters demanded a public apology from Sotto over his offensive remarks, asserting that “no woman deserves that kind of treatment”. The Gabriela Women’s Party also demanded for a public apology, claiming that Sotto “went out of bounds” insulting solo parents and insinuating malice at Taguiwalo. The Commission on Human Rights condemned the event saying: “It is deplorable that such a comment came from an elected senator and that it elicited laughter from the halls of the Congress. The incident shows how those charged by law to protect women from discrimination often forget and unwittingly become promoters of discrimination themselves“. A statement from the Philippine Commission on Women called the incident “a mockery of a woman’s circumstance as a solo parent as the status has nothing to do with her professional qualifications.” Representatives Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers Partylist) and Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis) deprecated the behavior of their colleagues in Congress for tolerating Sotto’s remarks. Filipino netizens also criticized Sotto, who became a trending topic on Twitter that day.Some social media users even reminded him that his daughter, Ciara Sotto, is also a single mother. Singer-actress Lea Salonga, who was single-handedly raised by her mother, decried Sotto’s remarks. Celebrity single mothers Pokwang, LJ Reyes, Geneva Cruz, and Claudine Barretto also denounced Sotto’s remarks and expressed support for their fellow single mothers.

In an interview after the hearing, Sotto apologized and claimed that Taguiwalo was not offended by his remarks. He reasoned that perhaps people were just “overly sensitive” and did not “understand the joke“. He also added:

“I will be the last person in this country to disrespect a woman because my mother was one of the founders of the Women’s Rights Movement … I have two daughters who are separated, single, and have children so I don’t think there should be big fuss about it.”

On May 4, Secretary Judy Taguiwalo accepted Sotto’s apology, but clarified that “the apology does not fully capture the extent of the gravity of what his ‘joke’ implied.” She also asserted that despite accepting Sotto’s apology, she will not tolerate misogyny, anti-women comments, and attacks towards solo parents. Taguiwalo also thanked Sotto for supporting her confirmation as DSWD secretary. She, however, also thanked those who expressed their condemnation of Sotto’s statements, and those who supported her and all solo parents.

Despite Sotto’s apology, and Taguiwalo’s acceptance thereof, eight women’s and workers’ groups filed an ethics complaint against the senator on May 10, 2017. Among these groups were Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific and Partido ng Manggagawa. The said groups claimed that the aforementioned apology was insincere and that Sotto normalized patriarchal views and trivialized the abandonment of responsibility over children. The complaint was filed with the Senate committee on ethics and privileges, of which Sotto is the chairman. Sotto welcomed the complaint and declared his intention to go on leave from his committee as soon as he receives the complaint officially.

On May 9, the Federation of Solo Parents in Luz vi min (FSPL) approached Senator Sotto in his office and requested his support for the passage of amendments to Republic Act No. 8972, or the Solo Parents Welfare Act of 2000. These amendments included discounts on medicine, hospitalization fees, clothing, tuition, milk, and vitamins for solo parents and their children. In a statement, Sotto said that he is “ready and willing” to fight for the rights of single parents and assured the group that the amendments will be passed before December 2017.

On August 7, 2017, Sotto filed a resolution for the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to investigate the alleged unexplained wealth of Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista.

Sen. Vicente Sotto, III regained his position as the 3rd highest ranking official in the Philippine government after he was re-elected as its Senate President. Sen. Panfilo Lacson administers the oath of Sotto. In his valedictory speech he emphasize that the Senate will continue to be as independent but yet cooperative in the plans of the Duterte Administration.

Sotto, who served as Majority Floor leader in his years way back in the senate secured the support of his co-senators especially those in the majority.

On the other hand, Senators Recto, Zubiri and Drilon also regained their post after they were re-elected as Senate President Pro-Tempore, Majority Floor Leader and Minority Floor Leader, respectively.

Personal life

Sotto is married to Helen Gamboa, a beauty queen, actress, and singer. They have four children: Romina, Diorella Maria, Gian Carlo and Ciara; eight grandsons: Romino Vicente, Victorio, Vicente IV, Carlos Edrigu, Alessandro Jose, Marciano, Juan Rossano, and Vincenzo Jose; and two granddaughters: Helena and Amaria Jiliana.

Actors Oyo Boy Sotto and Miko Sotto (1982–2003) are his nephews. Actress Danica Sotto is his niece. Radio-television personality Ali Sotto is the former wife of his brother, Maru. Singer-actress Sharon Cuneta is also his niece (her mother, Elaine Gamboa, is a sister of Sotto’s wife, Helen Gamboa).

In the 2016 elections, his son Gian Carlo was elected councilor of Quezon City’s 3rd District, who was later elected as the vice mayor of the city in the 2019 elections, while his daughter Diorella Maria “Lala” was elected in the 6th District of the same city. His nephews Vico Sotto and Viktor Eriko “Wahoo” Sotto were elected mayor and councilor in Pasig and Parañaque respectively.

He is an avid bowler and was a member of the Philippine national bowling team, representing the country several times at the AMF World Cup. Presently, he is the chairman of the Philippine Bowling Federation (PBF).

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