Netizens once again pounced on Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, this time over his remark about copping a feel or "hipo" during interpellation on Senate Bill No. 1326 or the Safe Spaces bill.
During the debate on the bill on Wednesday, August 1, Sotto asked the bill's sponsor, Senator Risa Hontiveros, on whether the provision on gender-based street and public harassment under SB 1326 was similar to the anti-discrimination provisions of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) bill.
Hontiveros explained that the proposed Safe Streets Act zeroes in on "unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a person in a public space without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation and identity."
The SOGIE Equality Bill or the Anti-Discrimination Bill prohibits "discrimination on the basis of" SOGIE in terms of access to public service, including military service; employment, education, accreditation, medical service, or imposition of harsher sanctions.
Sotto then asked if the act of harassment in public spaces or streets in the bill is being "limited" by the qualifier "gender based," and what acts will be considered as harassment.
"Are we not limiting the act of harassment when it’s committed on streets and public spaces by including the qualifier, gender based?" Sotto said.
"Baka pwedeng iwasan natin 'yun kasi for instance just to set an example: in an alley, a straight guy touched the groin of another straight guy who just happened to pass by just to vex him and not because of the person's SOGIE. In this bill, would the offender be held liable?" he added.
He later said, "For example, 'yung sinabi ko na binibiro lang, hinipuan na ganun, will they be liable? You (Hontiveros) said yes, the answer I think is no."
Hontiveros answered that gender will not limit whoever may file a complaint under the Safe Spaces Act.
She said the hypothetical victim in Sotto's example may file harassment charges against the person who touched him if he felt offended.
“Ang babaeng hinipuan ng lalake, hindi po namin yun tinatanaw na biro because that truly makes women feel unsafe," Hontiveros noted.
Sotto's responses earned criticism from social media users, with some pointing out that molestation is a crime and others sharing their experiences with public harassment.
'It was a question'
Sought for comment, Sotto said he was merely asking Hontiveros a question and told his critics to assess his words more carefully before making comments.
"It was a question. They should find out what's true before they judge people," he told GMA News Online via text.
Sotto shrugged off the criticisms. "I do not want to pay attention to judgmental people," he said.
"For example, yung sinabi ko na binibiro lang, hinipuan na ganun, will they be liable? You (to @risahontiveros) said yes, the answer I think is NO."— Miranda???? (@beareyno) August 1, 2018
-Senate President Tito Sotto on the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Bill
Molestation is not a joke. It's a crime. pic.twitter.com/f0hH13NIEo
Senator Sotto is the epitome of entitled men who think they get to decide when women should feel victimized or joked when they are “nahipuan lang”.— Vince Liban; ????????? (@vinceliban) August 2, 2018
This isn’t even abt whether it’s “nahipuan” or not. It’s abt protecting women’s rights vs sexual harassment & the culture of rape! pic.twitter.com/zayKjFKuj4
We face sexual harassment every day and everywhere. I remember falling asleep in the bus only to wake up with his hands inside my shorts. I shouted at him, asked for his ID, and told him to get off. He had nothing to say but sorry. Oh, and my harasser is a pastor. #SafeSpaces— Magnolia del Rosario (@freshlikemagi) November 26, 2017
Some Twitter users mentioned his previous public remarks that were perceived as sexist, including his "na-ano lang" remark on former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo in 2017.
Senate President Sotto saying na walang accountability dapat ang mga nanghihipo during interpellation of the Safe Spaces and Streets Bill.— RJ Naguit #MoveforMH (@raymondnaguit) August 2, 2018
Well, what can we expect nga naman from the "Na Ano Lang" King.
Redemption is still far for some. ???? pic.twitter.com/C3N5Hd2xgY
Tito Sotto has been consistent in trivializing women and our experiences — whether in sexual harassment or as single mothers. His sexism has also been overdone as his jokes — whether in his tv shows or in senate halls.— Jean Enriquez (@jeanenriquez) August 2, 2018
His remark in 2016 on the noontime show Eat Bulaga where he rebuked a woman taken advantage of while drunk was also again brought to light. —KBK/RSJ, GMA News