After gaffe, Sotto vows to seek more benefits for solo parents
MANILA, Philippines – After sparking outrage for his inappropriate remarks against single mothers, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III has now promised to seek more benefits for solo parents.
The senator met with members of the Federation of Solo Parents in his office on Tuesday, May 9, and told them he would push for the passage of a measure amending Republic Act (RA) 8972 or the Solo Parents' Welfare Act of 2000.
Sotto, who steers the Senate's legislative agenda, said the measure could be passed by December this year.
The senator drew flak when he insulted Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo's status as a single mother during her confirmation hearing last May 3. (READ: Sotto insults single mother DSWD chief Taguiwalo: 'Na-ano lang')
Sotto told Taguiwalo, "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)."
The senator later apologized and said it was "meant as a joke."
On Tuesday, he said the fiasco was a "blessing in disguise."
"It was blown out of proportion but it was a blessing in disguise. Now, there is more attention to it. We can rally in Congress, we can rally in the Senate and seriously look at the amendments they are proposing," said Sotto.
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Information Officer Carina Javier, who is also president of the DSWD Central Office Solo Parents Support Group, welcomed Sotto's promise.
"This is a good opportunity, right? The door of opportunity used to be so narrow and we found it hard to enter. We have been campaigning for the law to be amended for nearly 17 years now," said Javier in a mix of English and Filipino.
RA 8972 only provides general benefits to single parents such as livelihood and counseling services, flexible working hours, and additional leave credits. Concerned agencies are also required by law to give single parents opportunities for low-cost housing, medical assistance, and scholarships for their kids.
There are 4 bills in the Senate and 10 bills in the House of Representatives proposing more detailed benefits. (READ: DSWD: Amend law to provide more benefits for solo parents)
These benefits include a 20% discount on the following:
- purchase of baby's milk and food supplements made within 3 years from the child's birth
- purchase of medicines and vaccines for the child made within 18 years of the child's birth
- hospital bill of the solo parent when his or her child is admitted to a public or private hospital
- public and private recreational facilities where solo parents spend time with their children
The following discounts are also proposed:
- 12% for basic necessities
- 15% for school supplies until the child reaches the age of 21
- 10% for school tuition per child studying college in either a public or private school
- 10% for consultation and laboratory diagnostic fees, as well as purchase of medicines for solo parents and their dependents
The Federation of Solo Parents estimates that there are about 20 million solo parents in the country.
"Majority of us have been married then our spouses died – that wasn't our choice. We were left behind, which is also not our choice. It is also not the choice of the unmarried ones," Javier pointed out.
"Every day we strive hard to raise and send our kids to school. For me, that's a heroic act," she added. – Camille Elemia and Patty Pasion / Rappler.com