Sotto being put to a supreme test
By Al S. Mendoza
TITO Sotto, the upright Senate president, has not stopped amazing us.
He has stood his ground all this time. Idol for all seasons.
His stance has always been infectious.
He doesn’t give a hoot to any brickbat hurled his way.
He ignores destructive critique like the bubonic plague.
But, anytime at all, he welcomes constructive-based criticisms.
I’ve known him for years.
He’s as broad-minded as a God-fearing Supreme Court magistrate.
“As a public official, I get criticized, sometimes harshly, every now and then,” Sotto says. “I just shrug it off. I am a public property. I am an open target. But I know it’s fair game. You should not enter public service if you are onion-skinned.”
But Sotto, an English major graduate from Letran, can be stubborn—beautifully most of the time.
Just like in the issue now on the 2019 national budget, now the hottest barbershop topic.
The national budget has remained in his Senate office because it has been tampered with.
Thus, the document is deemed anomalous.
From its original text from the bicameral debates, Sotto found to his shock a document clothed in a different form.
Because he is not one to be conned, he threw it in the back burner.
You can pull the leg, even willingly, of many lawmakers in a whiff.
“I will never sign a document that is illegal in nature,” says Sotto.
Titosen, as he is called by those close to him, will never touch
anything that infringes on the Constitution.
Not even with a 10-foot pole.
“We should never take the Revised Penal code for granted,” says he.
This week, Tito led a delegation from the Senate and the lower house upon the request of President Duterte.
Topic? The national budget to the tune, originally, of P3.7-plus trillion.
Not even Mr. Duterte could sway Sotto’s stand.
Titosen stuck to his position: No signing.
To the President’s credit, he backed Titosen all the way.
What is the bone of contention again about the budget?
Titosen sniffed something fishy aka insertion amounting to billions.
He is not saying it directly, but the good senator smells a P79-billion addition to the budget that was never discussed in the bicameral deliberations.
“That would be unfair to the people that I am sworn to serve with full honesty and fairness if I sign a budget that is not true and questionable in nature,” Sotto says with conviction. “We could be accused later on with unlawfully breaking the Constitution.”
In that historic Palace meeting just last Wednesday night, House Speaker GMA was asked for comment on the 2019 budget.
“I will get the consensus again of the members of the House,” was her answer.
Meaning, the insertions will remain undeleted?
With Titosen leaving the budget document unsigned, it will now be a test of will and character for the Senate boss.
Will the Upper Chamber ever crack?
Not under Sotto’s watch.
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