How Sen. Tito Sotto became my textmate
I have ridiculed Senate President Tito Sotto since 1992. He is staunchly against my causes: removing cyberlibel criminal penalties, reproductive health rights and LGBT equality. Thus, a single meaningful conversation weighed more than making fun of him for 25 years.
I published “Why drug testing is unconstitutional” on Dec. 26, 2016. I once felt violated renewing my driver’s license. A Land Transportation Office clerk cheerfully encouraged that two bottles of water would have me urinating in no time.
LTO drug tests’ unconstitutionality inspired my first Philippine Law Journal article in 2002 as a freshman.
“@sotto_tito” tweeted at 8 a.m.: “concur w/ ur column. Dats why i authored d new law removing mandatory drug testing for drivers license. RA 10586.”
The Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013 scaled back mandatory drug tests, from every LTO applicant to drivers in actual accidents. The senator I belittled throughout law school fixed the silliest point of our antidrug policy.
I thought @sotto_tito was a parody account. Its profile photo was a smiling Sotto in dark glasses and black leather jacket.
We exchanged direct messages, now in straight, non-jeje English. He recalled lengthily debating Sen. Robert Barbers, former policeman and mandatory drug test proponent.
He cited only 0.06 percent of applicants in 2002-2010 tested positive. It was a clear waste of hundreds of pesos per applicant.
We discussed how random drug testing broadly applied, such as to all employees and all students, may be constitutionally intrusive. I showed him a Dec. 1, 2016, memo from Barangay Laging Handa, Quezon City, requiring all employers to certify their employees are drug-free or be added to a police “Tokhang” list.
I wished a Merry Christmas to all his accounts.
A friend at the Senate later confirmed the world’s best researched Sotto impersonator was indeed his personal Twitter account. He said insiders respect Sotto for working hard behind the scenes.
And so began our chance, intermittent correspondence, from the interface between the Senate and the president as commander in chief, to the difference between the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.
He joined in when Rep. Miro Quimbo solicited a few votes for the joke online voting of “JCI Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World.”
After his “na-ano” line during Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo’s confirmation, I forwarded the Inquirer guest column, “What Sotto should have asked Taguiwalo” (5/9/17).
Sotto personally met author Jaime Arroyo on the House of Representatives bill he asked Sotto to support. The following month, Sotto filed Senate Bill No. 1474, protecting both child soldiers and victims in armed conflicts.
He cited our soldiers in Marawi facing 10-year-olds carrying rifles, perhaps his way of apologizing to children of single mothers and orphans. Sen. Sonny Angara immediately supported him, citing existing provisions of the child abuse act (Republic Act No. 7610) for armed conflicts.
And so I congratulated Sotto on his election and voiced respect for how his first act was to champion the Bangsamoro Basic Law. He promised “100 percent support.”
I imagine Sotto feels the gravity of our country’s third highest office, of succeeding such legal titans as Jovito Salonga, Edgardo Angara, Juan Ponce Enrile and Franklin Drilon. He changed his Twitter profile photo to a more sedate one with his wife, and will stop appearing on “Eat Bulaga.”
Perhaps he knows he is now the Senate president of the political blogger, the woman whose health is jeopardized by
unplanned pregnancies, the gay teenager asserting self-identity, and the “na-ano.”
Sotto’s bashers might realize they have an unprecedented direct line to a Senate president active on Twitter, and engage him intelligently instead of simply picking fights.
They may yet surprise each other by finding common ground, however small. As Sotto emphasized to reporters shortly after his election, a Senate president’s greatest quality must be his ability to compromise.
React: email@example.com, Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.
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