MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Single mothers are “na-ano lang” (just got knocked up).
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III made this remark as he grilled Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, a solo parent, during her confirmation hearing before the Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday, May 3.
Sotto was initially questioning Taguiwalo on the rehabilitation plans of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for drug suspects, then he switched to a “lighter side” to ask about Taguiwalo’s personal life.
“Just on the lighter side, Senator Drilon and I were looking at the personal information about you. You have two children – daughters or sons?” Sotto asked the DSWD secretary.
Taguiwalo replied she has two daughters.
Sotto went on to ask Taguiwalo: “But you’re single?”
That prompted the DSWD chief to explain her status: “Ah okay, my life has never been a normal one. I never had a whole mother-father-children kind of thing, except when I was growing up in Bacolod. Remember I graduated from UP in 1970, I did organizing work,” said Taguiwalo, who was a student activist during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
“From 1972 up to 1986, it has been a life underground or in prison. So, well, my story would be different from the stories of those who have gone through corporations, et cetera,” she added.
After Taguiwalo’s serious explanation, Sotto then made a remark against the DSWD secretary’s status as a single mom, quoting a standard crass joke he and other hosts of his noontime show “Eat Bulaga” tell contestants who are single mothers.
“In the street language, when you have children and you are single, ang tawag do’n ay na-ano lang (we call that you just got knocked up),” Sotto said, prompting soft laughter from the audience during the hearing.
“Thank you. You have my 100% support,” he added.
But Taguiwalo, a women’s rights advocate and professor, did not take the senator’s remark sitting down.
“Senator Sotto, I teach women’s studies. We respect all kinds of families and that includes solo parents. Thank you,” she said.
The CA has deferred the confirmation of Taguiwalo, after she was questioned about her links to the communist party. The hearing is set to resume next week.
Gabriela demands public apology
Gabriela Women’s Party called for Sotto to publicly apologize to Taguiwalo. “The senator clearly went out of bounds, insinuating malice at Taguiwalo, who raised her two children as a solo parent, dubbing such as ‘na-ano,'” said Gabriela in a statement.
“Solo parents, including the DSWD secretary, should in no way be on the receiving end of such insults. We demand a public apology from the senator,” Gabriela added.
Earlier, one of the secretary’s daughters also called for an apology. She told Rappler: “My mother deserves an apology. No woman should be treated like that.”
The party-list group also commended Taguiwalo for “standing her ground” despite being insulted by Sotto before other lawmakers and government officials.
“She is an inspiration to marginalized women and is more than deserving of a confirmation from the CA,” said Gabriela. – with a report from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com