The Controversial 24th Senate President

If we are to talk about experience in different capacities, Sen. Sotto may just be equipped to lead the Senate in its operation as a legislative chamber.

The election of Sen. Vicente Sotto III as the 24th President in the history of the Philippine Senate has been met with severe criticism. The statements of Sen Sotto on various issues have definitely earned the ire of various sectors, thus earning him the title of “social media’s favorite whipping boy.”

The grievances and violent reactions of certain groups on his election are legitimate. However, while Sen. Sotto’s past remarks did not sit well with some people, his election as Senate President is not totally without basis. Prior to making judgments or conclusions about his fitness for the post, we must first know the duties and responsibilities bestowed upon a Senate President.

Rule 3 of the Rules of the Senate enumerates the Senate President's powers and duties. In summary, the Senate President is considered the Chief Executive of the Senate; hence, he/she is expected to maintain the orderly conduct of business at the Senate. In addition, the Senate President is also the ex officio chairman of the Commission on Appointments, a constitutional body which has the sole power to confirm all appointments made by the Philippine President. In cases of impeachment, the Senate President also serves as presiding officer.

Given the above duties and responsibilities, it is time to examine the qualifications of Sen. Sotto. He is the most senior Senator of the 17th Congress, with about 18 years of Senate experience. In his long-storied Senate tenure, he has gone through 9 different Senate Presidents of different styles and personalities.

He has also handled several committee chairmanships, which includes the Committee on Rules. This chairmanship must have allowed him to gain traction on the order and manner of transacting business in the Senate.

He also served both as Assistant Majority Floor Leader and Majority Floor Leader at several instances. This role requires solid relationship and consensus building ability, and impeccable negotiation skills so that important bills and measures are properly calendared and eventually passed. Due to the increasing number of conflicts between Senators in recent years, it seems only rational that a Majority Floor Leader plays an important role in ensuring that in-fighting does not impede the resolution of important Senate business.

Therefore, if we are to talk about experience in different capacities, Sen. Sotto may just be equipped to lead the Senate in its operation as a legislative chamber.

Sixteen Senators signed a resolution to support the election of Sen. Tito Sotto as Senate President. Based on the statements of some signatories, they feel that Sen. Sotto would be able to defend the honor and integrity of the Senate against attacks coming from different individuals, government agencies, and even branches. If Sen. Sotto was able to withstand personal attacks, it is likely that he would be able to come in and protect the Senate as an institution.

It is incumbent upon us, citizens, to make him accountable to his new position. It would require more than just blogging or social media commentary to ensure he listens and acts accordingly. Political pressure must be exerted through more powerful channels as if his lifeline as Senate President depended on his performance.

For now, we could only hope that there would be no ill-advised jokes and no Eat Bulaga appearances.


About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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