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Sotto, Cynthia Villar bicker over 'seniors' physical presence at Senate sessions

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senator Cynthia Villar on Wednesday bickered over the physical attendance of elderly members in the Senate plenary just before the chamber adjourned sine die.

After the senators voted to return the report on the disagreeing provisions of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Modernization bill to the bicameral conference committee, Villar asked whether the vote of Senator Bong Go was counted during the nominal voting. 

Responding to Villar’s query, Sotto said Go’s vote was not counted as the lawmaker was neither present at the plenary hall nor online during the process of voting.

Villar said that Go failed to cast his vote because he was having internet connectivity problems.

Sotto told Villar that the Senate cannot just count the votes of those who did not respond during the nominal voting.

“I don’t think we should put it that way because if you’re going to put it that way, you’ll have to be here present physically so that your vote will be counted , ‘di ganon,” Sotto said.

At this point, Villar appeared to lose her temper.

“May I answer that? They don’t allow seniors to go out of the home. In fact makukuwestyon kayo… Oh, kapag sinasabi mo palagi na dapat nandito kayo [sa plenary], you should consider that we cannot get out,” Villar told Sotto.

“You know, kayo senior, nakakalabas kayo. E, you take the risk of being questioned because under the protocol the seniors cannot go out of their homes,” she added.

Sotto said it was Go, not Villar, who was the subject of his statement.

But Villar went on with her rant, claiming Sotto had been reiterating the point that senators needed to be physically present in the Senate.

“Mr. Senate President, I am not talking of Mr. Go now. I’m just talking that you always say that ‘you should be here.’ How can we be there? We’re seniors. We’re not allowed to get out of our home. Maswerte ka na senior ka, nandiyan ka, pinapayagan ka,” Villar said.

“Pero kung malagay tayo sa diyaryo na mga senior tayo, dahil senador tayo, lumalabas tayo sa bahay natin. ‘Di ba pangit din tingnan ‘yon? That is my question because you always say na ‘You’re not always here' as if you give special attention to those who go there,” she added.

In response, Sotto said he took exception to Villar's remarks, saying Go should have been in the plenary if he could not connect online.

“I take exception to what you are saying na akala mo pinariringgan ko kayo. ‘Di ko kayo pinariringgan. You don’t have to be here if you don’t want to. You are seniors. I was pertaining to Senator Bong Go and the vote,” Sotto said.

Sotto suspended the session for a few minutes and pushed the microphone away from him.

Upon the resumption of the session, Villar apologized to Sotto.

In response, Sotto also begged the indulgence of his colleagues including Villar, saying he had to raise his voice because he wanted to explain his point.

The Senate has adjourned sine die minutes after Villar and Sotto engaged into a heated debate. —NB, GMA News