My former heckler, Tito Sotto

“Making people uncomfortable is one of my hobbies. I’m always hoping that half the people get the joke and the other half are the joke.” – Josh Homme

NEW YORK CITY – The incident occurred in the morning of April 2, 2004 while I was being interviewed by GMA-7 in the lobby of the Sarabia Manor Hotel and Convention Center in Iloilo City, Philippines.

The TV crew had been tipped off that I witnessed how then Koalisyon ng Nagkakaisang Pilipino (KNP) presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. or “FPJ” accosted TV reporter Sandra Aguinaldo on stage during a rally in Tigbauan, Iloilo’s southern coastal town afternoon on April 1, 2017.

I told the GMA-7 what happened as I saw it:

Aguinaldo was preparing a stand-upper when Poe, who was speaking in front of a crowd, noticed her. He approached Aguinaldo, handed her the microphone, and angrily muttered, “Gusto mo yata mag salita eh (Maybe you would like to talk).”

Unknown to me, Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, FPJ’s campaign manager, was listening, his body partly hidden behind a newspaper rack on my left side near the hotel’s restaurant.

Suddenly, I heard a male voice protesting, “Hindi totoo ‘yan, pare. I was there. Hindi ganon kasama si FPJ (That’s not true, buddy. I was there. FPJ is not that bad).”

When I turned my back, I recognized my heckler through his moustache: Sotto.

I briefly retorted: “I wasn’t only there, senator. I saw and heard everything, and I was standing in the middle of FPJ and Aguinaldo.”

 

INTERRUPTION

When the interruption happened, the TV interview was about to be concluded.

The crew then shifted attention to Sotto, who moved closer for the camera, where he belied everything I just mentioned.

It became Sotto’s words against my words.

A video taken during the rally in the basketball court of the plaza later showed I was correct. Sotto was wrong. I was even seen comforting the flabbergasted lady reporter from Manila (a fact that escaped Aguinaldo’s memory when she failed to mention this during an interview with IBC-12 and Radyo Budyong anchor Leo Dumagat days later).

Because so many people saw my presence during the imbroglio in Tigbauan, I became a recipient of invitations for interview from fellow journalists that very afternoon and during the night time newscast.

First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, whose wife, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was running against Poe, must’ve seen the GMA-7 interview in Manila. He contacted Passi City Mayor Jesry Palmares and asked for my number. The rest is history.

 

BEHAVIOR

I never wrote about Sotto’s behavior in that incident, but I criticized him eight years later when he plagiarized the ideas of the late US Senator Robert F. Kennedy in a speech he delivered in the Philippine Senate on September 5, 2012.

Sotto’s mortal sin in journalism didn’t escape the attention of the revered senator’s daughter, Kerry Kennedy, then 53, who bewailed Sotto’s plagiarism in a formal complaint dated November 9, 2012:

“As President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, I wish to inform you that Senator Vicente C. Sotto III, Majority Leader of the Philippine Senate, flagrantly and deceptively plagiarized Robert Kennedy’s 1966 Day of Affirmation Speech in his remarks to the Philippine Senate on September 5, 2012. Neither Senator Sotto nor anyone associated with him contacted us for permission, and he failed to cite the remarks as those of Robert Kennedy, presenting them instead as his own words.”

Sotto was in the news again on May 2, 2017 when he made fun of Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo’s status as single but with two children during the Commission on Appointments (CA) hearing.

Because of his penchant to insult people and pass it on as joke to make them laugh, sometimes we suspect that Sotto is a genius disguised as comedian and politician.

Stephen King once said, “A tragedy is a tragedy, and at the bottom, all tragedies are stupid. Give me a choice and I’ll take A Midsummer Night’s Dream over Hamlet every time. Any fool with steady hands and a working set of lungs can build up a house of cards and then blow it down, but it takes a genius to make people laugh.”

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