Vice presidential candidate Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Saturday night, Feb. 26 said it is not wrong to be friends with President Duterte as long as the 24-member Senate is independent.
‘’Ang lahat na ipinasa namin sa Senado kahit na pandemic I was never absent, never late (Despite the pandemic, I was never absent, never late in the Senate’s legislative process of passing bills),’’ Sotto said during a CNN Philippines-sponsored debate among seven presidential candidates.
‘’Kahit na to the detriment of my health wala akong pakialam because I was doing my job…that’s it (Even if it is to the detriment of my health, I don’t care because I was doing my job…that’s it),’’ he added.
On his readiness to assume the presidency should there be such a contingency, Sotto said: ‘’I have built consensus with 23 republics (senators) as the president of the Senate for almost four years.’’
‘’We believe in our competence, experience and I think we will be guided well, not only by the good Lord but of course the experience that we have built within 30 years,” he said.
Walden Bello, one of the vice presidential bets who attended the debate, accused Sotto of “rewriting history’’ because he never criticized the President Duterte during the peak of the administration’s drug war.
‘’I mean, he was just supportive during that time when the President is destroying the integrity of the Senate. So Senator Sotto please don’t rewrite history, you were an ally of the President, until just very recently. Let’s be frank with our kababayan naman, wag tayong magsisinungaling dito. Kaya mahirap ho yan, di ho ba Anti-Terror Law, itinulak nyo? ( Let’s be frank with our countrymen, let us not tell lies here. Didn’t you push for the passage of the Anti-Terror Law?)” Bello added.
In his retort, Sotto said he thinks the former congressman “got his figures all wrong”.
He said being a friend does not mean he is an ally of the President.
‘’I have preserved the independence of the Senate always and you can ask the members of the minority and the majority,’’ he pointed out.
‘’Ngayon, ito why do I say he got it all wrong. Kaya ako open ako na ang ICC mag-imbestiga dito (I am open to an investigation by the International Criminal Court [ICC]) from the 2016 up to the present October 2021, there were 258,000 drug operations,’’ he stressed.
‘’This is on the issue of illegal drugs, drug operations. There were 378,000 arrests. And there were only 6,021 related to these operations that died,’’ he emphasized.
Sotto said that if allegations being hurled against President Duterte that there are ‘’extra judicial killings (EJKs)”, there should have been 378,000 EJK casualties. ‘’Hindi totoo yun, yung 21,000 kung anu-ano pinapadala nilang figures sa ICC, hindi totoo yun (That is not true. The EJK figure of 21,000 sent to the ICC is not true). You have to let the records speak for itself),’’ he said.
‘’Now, all the bills and all the laws [passed by the Senate] that former Congressman Bello mentioned are all for the benefit of the Filipino people,’’ he stressed.
‘’Anti-Terror Law, bakit gusto mo ba kampi tayo sa terrorist? (Do you want to be an accomplice of terrorists?) Hahayaan natin sila ganun na lang (Let’s just allow them to do what they are doing?) Foreign investments, bakit ayaw natin makarecover ang ekonomiya? (Measures passed on foreign investments.. you don’t want the country’s economy to recover?) Ano nakasadlak na lang tayo, bagsak na lang? ( We are laying prostrate…shall we allow that?)” he asked.
Sotto further remarked: ’We believe in our competence, experience and I think we will be guided well, not only by the good Lord but of course the experience that we have built within 30 years.”
‘’I and (presidential candidate) Senator Panfilo Lacson have qualities that we bring during the election campaign and these are ‘Tatlong K’: Katapatan, Kakayahan, at Katapangan ( Honesty, Ability, and Bravery),’’ he added.
‘’With this, I believe we will lead by example. Thank you,’’ he said.