Opinion


Sotto ever trying hard




To Take A Stand
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.


Posted on September 18, 2012


TWENTY YEARS ago, I wrote in this space under the title "Unfit for the Senate" that senatorial candidates Ramon Revilla and Tito Sotto were not qualified for the Upper Chamber of Congress. Revilla had run for the Senate in 1987 and lost ignominiously, as he should have since he did not have the credentials to be a senator. But among the senatorial candidates in 1992 he ranked No. 3 in the surveys. His resume had not changed significantly from 1987, when he was rejected resoundingly by the electorate, to 1992, when he was regarded more highly by the same electorate. That was because he ran as Jose Bautista, his real name, in 1987 and as Ramon Revilla in 1992.

I ventured the opinion in the same article that if Sotto were to run as Vicente Sotto he would meet the same fate that Jose Bautista met in 1987. I wrote then that the Harvard-trained and veteran legislator has said he was not seeking reelection to the Senate because he did not relish the thought of debating with the likes of Tito Sotto, the master of toilet humor and sick jokes, host of the asinine TV show Eat Bulaga.

I wrote further that Senator Enrile should have perished the thought of debating with him as Sotto was not capable of engaging in such cerebral activity, as gauged by his participation in the Great Debate on the RP-US Treaty. His best effort in that discourse consisted of getting Eat Bulaga child star Aiza Seguerra, then too young to understand the issue, and the sex star Nanette Medved, a foreign citizen, to join the pro-base rally at the Luneta and leading the chant "Yes to the bases." Such was Sotto’s grasp of the burning issue of the time.

Both Sotto and Revilla were elected to the Senate that year, Sotto placing first among the winners, no doubt by virtue of his popularity among what columnist Tony Abaya referred to as the "squealing masa," the shrieking audience of the inane Eat Bulaga. As Sotto continued to appear in Eat Bulaga during his first term, he was elected in 1998 to another term. In all those years he was hardly heard in the Upper Chamber of Congress.

Then came the historic impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada. When the former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Perfecto Yasay testified, Sotto stood up and addressed Yasay. This is how the dialogue went:

Sotto: Can you tell this court the telephone service provider that you use for your cellphone?

Yasay: "I used at that time Piltel."

Sotto: "Digital, analog, GSM?"

Yasay: "I was using an old Motorola set."

Sotto: "Okay, thank you."

That was the extent of Sotto’s participation in that significant chapter of the country’s history.

After the trial had been aborted, Sotto tried to justify his "no" vote on the opening of the Jose Velarde envelope by saying that he had consulted legal eagles including former justices of the Supreme Court, and all of them advised him to oppose the opening of the envelope. To have to consult legal luminaries on whether to open an envelope thought to contain incriminating evidence against Erap meant he was incapable of making even such a simple decision.

Having served two consecutive terms in the Senate he was ineligible to run for re-election in 2004. He ran again in 2007 under the banner of TEAM Unity, the coalition backed by then President Arroyo. It will be recalled that Gloria ran for the Senate in 1995 and for vice-president in 1998 as a look-alike of Nora Aunor -- obviously to win the votes of the "squealing masa." Had she found a party to sponsor her candidacy for president in 1998, which she had originally wanted to do, Sotto would have been her running mate. Anyway, demonized because of his "no" vote on the opening of the Jose Velarde envelope, as Senator Miriam Santiago put it, Sotto ended up in 19th place in that year’s senatorial race.

To keep his name in the consciousness of the voters, he was appointed in 2008 as chairman of the Dangerous Drug Board by his patron Gloria. During the Lower House’s inquiry in 2009 into the alleged bribery attempt to release the Alabang Boys arrested in a buy-bust operation, Sotto somehow was able to insert himself into the inquiry. He tried mightily to participate in the deliberations but since he was only peripherally connected to the issue at hand, he did not get any chance to voice his thoughts. But at one point, Quezon Congressman Danilo Suarez, another Gloria loyalist, asked Sotto, "Why are there Caucasians in PDEA operations?"

It seemed from the irrelevance of the question that Suarez was merely giving fellow Gloria ally the chance to get some exposure as the inquiry was being televised live. Sotto answered: "The PDEA is structurally different from the US DEA." The answer equally irrelevant to the issue being resolved and Sotto having gotten his exposure, though fleeting it was, Suarez dismissed the matter. Sotto remained a mere onlooker/listener for the rest of the session.

In 2010 Sotto ran again for the Senate. To distance himself from the discredited Arroyo, he ran under the banner of the National People’s Coalition, the party of Boss Danding Cojuangco, who quietly supported the candidacy of Noynoy. Sotto got elected this time.

Then came the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, Arroyo’s first line of defense against future criminal charges. There was nothing Sotto had done since the Erap impeachment trial in 2001 to qualify him to sit as judge in the impeachment of Gutierrez. In response to the wide speculation that he, being an ally of Gloria Arroyo, would vote to acquit Gutierrez, the Inquirer quoted him as saying: "People should not be judgmental and avoid speculating on the individual stand for each senator. They’re not helping the Senate any by doing that." Bothered by the wide speculation that he would vote according to the bidding of his former patron, he declared that there are 23 republics in the Senate, implying that all senators are independent minded.

Yet, in the trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona he admitted that he went by the wishes of the people when as judge he should have decided on the basis of evidence presented for his evaluation. Said he when he cast his vote: "The real judge in this trial is the citizenry. They heard the two sides. In my conscience, I have heard their decision. And for them I vote guilty."

In his speech against the RH Bill, he said his son died five months after he was born, attributing his death to complications arising from his wife taking the oral contraceptive pill Diane. However, information indicated that the product Diane became available in the market only after his son had died, destroying completely his sob story. He didn’t sound credible from the beginning. Here is a macho man (what with his mustache and beard) sobbing like a little boy whose large scoop of ice cream had just fallen on the floor. It was obviously plain acting, and it was bad acting, including on the part of his former detractor Enrile, who was not moved one bit by the "emotional breakdown" of Corona during the latter’s trial but who came to console the sobbing Sotto.

Tito Sotto should stop trying to sound and look like a senator in the mold of the senators of the 1950s. The more he tries, the more he reinforces his image as the intellectually challenged student of Wanbol University, the fictional school in the TV variety show Iskul Bukol.

In fact, the TV clip wherein he let out a guffaw after saying he could not have plagiarized Robert Kennedy because what he said was in Tagalog, a language Kennedy did not know, could pass for a scene in Iskul Bukol.