Sotto faces ethics complaint for ‘demeaning’ single mothers

Camille Elemia
Sotto faces ethics complaint for ‘demeaning’ single mothers
Women's groups want the Senate ethics committee to 'impose a sanction' on the senator, 'commensurate to [his] insult'

MANILA, Philippines – Members of women’s groups on Wednesday, May 10, filed an ethics complaint against the Senate ethics committee chairman, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, for his “demeaning” remark against single mothers during a Commission on Appointments (CA) hearing.

The complaint stemmed from Sotto’s comment on Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo’s personal life. He told Taguiwalo, a solo parent, that single mothers are “na-ano lang” (just got knocked up).

Complainants said Sotto’s comment showed that he views single mothers “as less than others, demeaning and disparaging women in the same position and making them easy targets of jokes and ridicule.”

“He epitomizes the segment of the misogynist and macho sector of society that considers women who are without men as less of value. His language normalized the patriarchal view that men have sexual privilege over women, and trivialized abandonment of responsibility over children,” the complainants also said.

They argued that Sotto’s comment, which he later on said was a joke, undermined the CA because his official utterances are part of the minutes of the proceedings.

The complainants also slammed the CA’s “alarming” silence on Sotto’s remark, pointing out that not one CA member responded to the senator.

“When the Commission on Appointments remained silent, it is tantamount to tolerating the sexist acts and remarks of Senator Sotto toward Judy Taguiwalo. Worse, the comments [elicited] laughter, making those who did so as insulting and downgrading as the one who uttered the insults,” they said.

Sotto and the CA, they said, should be good examples to the public.

“Such should not be tolerated. Senator Sotto and the rest of the Commission on Appointments should have conducted themselves to the highest ethical standards expected of elected government officials. They should not only serve as a good example to the public, but should carry out their oath as government officials,” the complainants said.

Sanction, inhibition

The complainants want Sotto, chairman of the Senate ethics committee, to inhibit himself from the proceedings on the complaint – something that the senator earlier said he would do.

They are also asking the ethics panel to “impose a sanction” on Sotto “commensurate to the insult.”

Members of the CA, they added, should also be reprimanded “for failing to comment or correct Sotto.”

The group also wants the Senate to require all senators and their staff to undergo a gender seminar training facilitated by the Philippine Commission on Women.

The complainants are:

  • Jean Enriquez – Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) and the World March of Women-Pilipinas (WMW)
  • Clarissa Militante – World March of Women-Pilipinas (WMW)
  • Amparo Miciano Sykioco – Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK)
  • Judith Pamela Afan Pasimio – Lilak (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights)
  • Judy Ann Chan Miranda – Partido Manggagawa (PM)
  • Ana Maria Nemenzo – WomanHealth Philippines
  • Myrna Hernandez Jimenez 
  • Josua Mata – Sentro ng Manggagawa ng Pilipinas (SENTRO)

Sotto had met with the Federation of Solo Parents on Tuesday, May 9, promising to seek more benefits for them and calling the controversy over his remark a “blessing in disguise.”

In 2012, an ethics complaint was also filed against Sotto over plagiarism charges involving his speech on the reproductive health bill, but it did not prosper.

Penalties could range from censure and suspension to expulsion. But the Senate, in 30 years, has only reprimanded two of its members – former senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Heherson Alvarez. –

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a former multimedia reporter for Rappler. She covered media and disinformation, the Senate, the Office of the President, and politics.