Sotto willing to talk to Duterte to settle Palace-Senate feud

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Thursday, September 2, that he is willing to reach out to President Duterte about the latter's displeasure on the upper chamber's investigation on the Department of Health's (DOH) disbursement of COVID-19 funds.

Senate President Vicente 'Tito' Sotto III (Senate PRIB)

Sotto believed that the President may have been misinformed about the Senate's inquiry on the matter, which he said he could explain should they talk.

Duterte has criticized and even hurled insults against senators for digging up anomalies in the DOH's transfer of some P42 billion in coronavirus response funds to the Department of Budget and Management's Procurement Service (DBM-PS), including the award of contracts to questionable suppliers.

"Ang tingin ko para hindi lang lumala (I think, to just prevent it from getting worse), I would take it upon myself. Tutal kaibigan ko naman si Pangulo, hindi naman siya tumatawag sakin, pero (Since I am friends with the President, although he doesn't call me, but) I will probably go out of my way and ask if he's willing for us to talk at pag-usapan namin ito (to discuss this)," Sotto said in an interview with ONE News.

"Sa pagkatingin ko, 'pag napagpaliwanagan naman 'yon -- mahirap kasi yung nag-aaway executive at saka legislative (I think, if things are explained to him, things would be settled -- because it's difficult if the executive and the legislative are at odds)," he added.

Sotto recalled Duterte's trusted aide Senator Christopher "Bong" Go telling him that the Chief Executive is fond of monitoring news and watching videos online. Duterte, he surmised, may have chanced upon "fake news" about the Senate's ongoing investigation.

"So 'pag ganon -- let's say social media, may mga fake news na lumalabas, hindi ba -- meron hindi accurate na nakikita dyan, baka syempre, iba rin ang nagiging reaction niya dahil doon (Maybe some fake news are being spread on social media, so he could have seen inaccurate things there that triggered his reactions)," he said.

"Wala namang masasayang kung susubukan (There's no harm in trying to reach out)," he said.

Still, Sotto said that the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, led by Sen. Richard Gordon, cannot be prevented from pursuing its inquiry as new issues have cropped up from their hearings.

"May mga anomalya, may mali ang executive, kailangan imbestigahan natin 'yan at sabihin sa kanila ang dapat nilang tamang gawin (There are anomalies, irregularities in the executive so we have investigate and point out to them what they should be properly doing), or for the Ombudsman or for the Department of Justice to do their job," he said.

"Pag-usapan natin issues, pagtalunan natin issues, 'wag natin pagtalunan 'yong mga personal (Let's talk about issues, debate on issues, and not fight over personal matters)," he added.

Sotto said he would not reach out to Duterte as a Senate President, but as friend, so they could address the conflict between the two branches of government.

"I hope he will also be willing to accept me as a visitor, we've been friends since 1988," he said.

"He could probably vent what he feels and I can probably start explaining what's happening and the things around it," he hoped.