Sotto eyes passing solo parents welfare amendments by December

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 22) — Amendments to a law protecting solo parents are likely to pass by December this year, said Senator Tito Sotto on Monday.

Sotto, who was approached by a single parents' group to support changes in the law, said amendments to Republic Act 8972 — also known as the Solo Parents' Welfare Act of 2000 — will be tabled in the Senate after it returns from a two-month break until July.

"There is a strong possibility that we may be able to tackle it by August," he told CNN Philippines' The Source, adding that the amendments could be passed "Before Christmas, or hopefully before the budget."

"Once the budget season comes in, we'll have difficulty in the Senate schedule," he said. Budget deliberations usually take place in November.

Sotto met with a single parents' group, the Federation of Solo Parents in Luzvimin (FSPL), not long after his controversial comment on single moms.

His remark came during a Commission on Appointments (CA) hearing last May 2 on the confirmation of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, a single mother of two children. He said of her status, "In the street language, when you have children and you are single, ang tawag dun e, 'na-ano lang.'"

Related: Taguiwalo defends solo parents vs. Sotto tirade

Sotto said that one of the amendments that the sector was forwarding included a 20 percent discount on basic commodities for parents with children ages 2 years old and younger.

"Kawawa din talaga [You would feel bad for them]. They're the only one working, providing for the family," said Sotto.

He added that the sector also wanted help with "tuition fees and hospital laboratory fees for [those with children] 21 years old and below."

Sotto also said that single parents "want to by recognized" and helped by the DSWD, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Education, and the Commission on Higher Education.

These additional amendments were being delayed at the Senate and the House of Representatives.

"They want an [local government unit]-created office handling issues of solo parents. There are some local government units that have that, but most do not," Sotto added.

'Critics from RH'

The senator drew flak from netizens and women's advocacy groups over his remarks in Taguiwalo's hearing, prompting Sotto to give an apology to those he "offended."

Related: Women's groups file ethics complaint vs. Sotto over 'na-ano' comments

Sotto has been slammed in the past for what women's rights groups call his misogynist stance. He came under fire for withholding support for the Reproductive Health Law, which provides free artificial contraception and family planning methods to women. Sotto, also a TV host on the noontime show Eat Bulaga, was criticized last year for remarking on a female contestant's clothing after she confessed to being taken advantage of by a man who was drinking with her.

When asked if his remarks on solo parents would not be repeated in the future, Sotto stood by his remark as a joke.

"If you do not have some kind of sense of humor in the Senate, you don't belong there... As a matter of fact, in that particular sequence, I prefaced it by saying 'Let's go to the lighter side,'" said Sotto.

He added that the criticism against him was "remnants of the [reproductive health] debates."

"They cannot move on. I don't know why. Some of them just don't like me, or they don't like what I stand for. It's as simple as that. Any comment, they will criticize. Even probably the clothes I wear," said Sotto.

Taguiwalo has since accepted Sotto's apology. However, she raised concern with another aspect of her confirmation after it was postponed for the third time.

Related: Taguiwalo calls postponement of confirmation 'a kind of torture'

Sotto said that some colleagues in the CA were not pleased with Taguiwalo's remarks, which she also posted on Twitter.

"Some of the members of the CA — they disliked it," said Sotto. "I have no comment about it."

He said the Committee on Rules is reviewing the Commission on Appointments' protocol on secret balloting, which was questioned after former Environment Secretary Gina Lopez was denied the post.

Sotto said that while he initially voted against secret balloting, he had to "open [his] mind and listen" to his colleagues' arguments for otherwise.

"Before we started the caucus, I was in favor of removing the secret balloting," said Sotto. "During the caucus, some of the members of the CA really brought out really good reasons... to do secret balloting. You really have to listen to them too."