Senate of the Philippines

2019 all over again? Sotto, Lacson bare ouster plot vs Senate President

Mara Cepeda

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2019 all over again? Sotto, Lacson bare ouster plot vs Senate President

ANOTHER COUP ATTEMPT? Senate President Vicente Sotto III delivers his speech during the sine die adjournment of the Senate on June 3, 2021.

Joseph Vidal and Albert Calvelo/Senate PRIB

But the coup attempt supposedly 'fizzled out' because the alleged plotters could not muster the 13 votes needed to unseat Senate President Vicente Sotto III

Is trouble brewing for Vicente Sotto III in his last year as Senate President? 

If information reaching the Senate President himself and his close ally Senator Panfilo Lacson is to be believed, there are senators in the majority bloc who supposedly wanted to oust Sotto after he declared his bid for the vice presidency in the 2022 elections. 

But the plot allegedly fizzled out because the group did not have the simple majority of 13 votes to unseat Sotto. 

It was Lacson who first bared the alleged ouster plot against Sotto in a DWIZ interview on Saturday, July 24, and it was then confirmed to Rappler by the Senate President on Sunday, July 25. 

Lacson is already set to run for president with Sotto as his running mate in next year’s high-stakes polls. The two have hit the ground running with ongoing talks with local politicians and political parties. They have almost completed their 12-member senatorial slate.

“Info came from an employee of one of the senators,” Sotto told Rappler when asked how he learned about the ouster plot against him. 

But he was not concerned about the alleged coup, saying: “I serve at the pleasure of my colleagues. I can be replaced anytime a majority of 13 wishes.”

Pressed on who could be behind the recent plan to unseat him, Sotto refused to give any details and doubted the group has enough numbers to remove him as Senate President. 

“Huwag na. Baka mapahiya (I’d rather not say. They might just lose face). I can only guess, hehe,” Sotto said. 

This is not the first time Sotto faced a threat to his Senate presidency in the 18th Congress. He started serving in the top Senate post May 2018, in a term-sharing agreement with Senator Aquilino Pimentel III during the previous 17th Congress.

In mid-2019, rumors were abound that neophyte and reelected senators wanted Senator Cynthia Villar – who topped the senatorial polls at the time – to replace Sotto. Villar denied this. 

The persistent ouster rumors prompted Pimentel and Senator Manny Pacquiao of the ruling PDP-Laban to draft a resolution expressing a “vote of confidence” for Sotto in June 2019. Villar refused to sign the resolution.

Sotto came out unscathed, however, as senators ultimately passed a resolution reelecting him as Senate President in July 2019. 

It would be tricky to stage an ouster in the Senate this time, however, since the chamber is implementing a hybrid setup to observe physical distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Only eight senators will be physically attending when the session reopens on Monday, July 26: Sotto, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and senators Ronald dela Rosa, Win Gatchalian, Bong Go, Imee Marcos, Ramon Bong Revilla Jr, and Francis Tolentino. The rest will be joining the proceedings virtually. 

No numbers?

Lacson told DWIZ on Saturday that Sotto had disclosed to him details about the brewing coup attempt when they were consulting with local officials in Paoay, Ilocos Norte in early July. 

The plan was to supposedly draft a resolution or do a signature campaign to get 13 votes to remove Sotto as top Senate leader when session reopens on Monday.

“Nung nasa Ilocos kami nung nangyari ‘yan, nagulat nga ako nung sinabi sa akin ni SP. Nung sinabi sa akin ni SP, ‘Partner, merong ako, may tinawag sa akin yung staff ko na may kinakalat na resolution dahil kesyo tatakbo akong vice president, kailangang palitan na raw ako,’” Lacson said. 

(We were in Ilocos when that happened and I was surprised when [Senate President] told me about it. SP told me, “Partner, my staff called me up and said there is a resolution being routed saying now that I’m running for vice president, I have to be replaced.”)

But Lacson also doubts this group in the majority bloc would be able to muster enough numbers to oust the Senate President soon.

He said Pacquiao, who is in the United States for his upcoming boxing match with Errol Spence, even called up Sotto to say he would not sign any resolution to oust the Senate President. 

“Siguro draft resolution or signature campaign, tinitignan siguro kung aabot ng 13, kasi 13 to oust eh di ba? So kami naman, medyo nagbilang-bilang din kami. Mukhang mahihirapan na makakuha ng 13 signatures. So mukhang nag-fizzle out na,” Lacson said. 

(Maybe it’s a draft resolution or signature campaign; they’re checking if they would get 13 because you need to 13 oust him, right? So we also counted our numbers. It appears they would have trouble getting 13 signatures. So it looks like it fizzled out.)

Sotto already promised that he and Lacson would not neglect their duties as senators once their campaign for the 2022 polls goes into full swing. –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.