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Commentary: On Senator Tito Sotto’s controversial remarks

Respect begets respect

Respect is a true Christian value. It is needed in our society today what with rudeness in language and action as well as vulgarities so widespread among the young and the old alike; worst, even those so-called paragons of respect, credibility and integrity.

How are we going to react in a situation where powerful male leaders whom we expect to be icons of respect and decency are even the ones who will denigrate and disparage us when summoned to appear before them for confirmation (as they are mandated by the Constitution to conduct background checks on individuals appointed by the President and confirm their fitness for the designated cabinet or any government post) or in an inquiry (in aid of legislation) which eats a big chunk of our lawmakers time and tasks in both Houses of Congress.

Netizens and women’s rights groups were enraged on the infamous gaffe ‘na ano lang’ uttered by a senior member of the Philippine Senate who also at one time was embroiled in an alleged plagiarism accusation.

During the confirmation hearing of DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo on Wednesday, Senator Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto III looked into the secretary’s personal life, questioning her about having two daughters but remaining single.

We quote the exchange:

Sotto: On a lighter side. Sen. Drilon …(we) were looking at your personal information and found you have two children but you’re single?

Sec Judy: I’ve never had a ‘normal family’, if that’s how you call it, growing up. But it’s a non-issue. I’ve been underground and been to prison. My story would be different from the stories of those who’ve gone through UP, corporations….

Sotto: Ah kasi in the street language, when you have kids, and you’re single tapos wala kang asawa ang tawag diyan ‘na-ano lang’. *more laugther* Thank you and you have my 100% support, Madame Secretary.

Sec Judy: Senator, I teach women’s studies in UP. We respect all kinds of families, and that includes solo parents. Thank you.

The Senate majority floor leader has publicly apologized for the controversial remarks; saying his critics apparently did not get the joke.

Though Senator Sotto admitted it was “street language”, the question is, why speak street when you’re inside the Senate Hall?

The senator should be reminded that the Senate chamber is not his noontime show “Eat Bulaga!” where such comments have become staple jokes.

We are all witnesses to the unacceptable and unethical demeanors of our honorable congressmen during the height of the congressional hearing on Senator Leila De Lima’s involvement on the illegal drugs trade at the National Penitentiary when she was still the justice secretary.

Since the said hearing was extensively covered by the press, grandstanding was evidently seen and heard on three of the congressmen who are members of the House justice committee wantonly uttering derogatory pronouncements objectifying and ridiculing Senator De Lima.

In fact, fellow lady senators lambasted members of the Lower House involved in asking personal details of De Lima’ s relationship with her former driver, Ronnie Dayan, as they called the proceedings “a public lynching in aid of misogyny, sexism and voyeurism.”

Indeed, in both instances our lawmakers’ line of questioning were grossly unparliamentary.

We agree with Senator Risa Hontiveros when she said, “It is even more shameful that this nation’s supposed leaders, elected representatives of the Filipino people, made the shaming of women a political strategy and a spectacle in the ‘honorable’ chambers of Congress.”

Hontiveros lamented how, despite global advances in the movement for gender sensitivity, a woman’s integrity and reputation could be “undermined by unreasonable, traditional and conservative expectations of women’s conduct in romantic and even sexual relationships.”

We all make mistakes while interacting with others, we are only human, and how we choose to deal with those mistakes will impact the level of respect we will get from others. We all react in ways that we later regret or say things that we know we shouldn’t have – it is, however, what we do immediately following an outburst or error in judgment that will determine the lasting impact of that event.

But our senators and congressmen should caution themselves when issuing statements or asking questions in the performance of their parliamentary duties and functions — Lest they be reminded that gender insensitivity has no place in public service. Though they are privileged to have immunity from suit, they could not inhibit themselves from the public’s wrath. That’s the power of the social media!

[This article was submitted by Deo Sambilay, a guest writer of the KDN/internet community. The views and opinion expressed herein are that of the original author.]

Submitted by: Kicker Daily News