Senator apologizes 'if it caused offense,' but says 'they didn't understand the joke'
MANILA - Saying he would be the last to disrepect women, Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto III on Wednesday said he meant nothing malicious in raising Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo's status as a solo parent at her confirmation hearing.
Speaking to reporters at the Senate, Sotto wondered why his comments drew heavy criticism, adding that two of his daughters were also single parents.
"I don't think Secretary Taguiwalo is offended. She was ready to answer anything under the sun, really. As a matter of fact, 'yung premise ko nga, Senator Drilon and I, noticed. Kaming dalawa 'yung naka-notice doon sa personal information niya. So what's wrong with asking that?," he said.
"As I said, I will be the last person in this country to disrespect a woman because my mother was one of the founders of the women's rights movement, and president emerita of Kababaihang Lasalista," Sotto said.
He cited how even two of his daughters were separated from their husbands.
"I have two daughters who are separated, who are single and have children. So I don't think there should be any big fuss about it," he added.
Sotto apologized to everyone who took offense with his "joke."
"That's why ang premise ko, in the street language. 'Yun ang biruan sa kalsada eh. Kung minasama nila, eh di I'm sorry, I apologize. They didn't understand the joke," he said.
"Madali naman 'yun kung hindi natin mamasamain. Pero kung minasama nila, humihingi ako ng paumanhin," Sotto added.
Sotto received flak online for raising Taguiwalo's status as a single mother, using a colloquial Tagalog phrase to describe her: "Na-ano lang."
One of Taguiwalo's children has also demanded an apology from the Senator, saying "no woman deserves that kind of treatment."
Several netizens also scored Sotto for sexism and misogyny.