- in Philippines
Senate President Tito Sotto

Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III has released a statement urging fellow government officials, particularly those in the executive branch, to focus on unity rather than opportunistic self-promotion during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Batid namin na hindi ito and panahon ng pasikatan o pagalingan. Lahat tayo dapat panalo sa laban na ito. Walang Pilipino ang maiiwan,” Senate President Sotto’s statement read.

The statement began with Sotto gi ving thanks to all Filipinos who are working to protect the country and their countrymen from the threat of COVID-19.

Sotto also acknowledged the work being done by his colleagues in the Senate, even though a majority are in quarantine after several senators tested positive for COVID-19. As the upper chamber of the legislative branch, the Senate acted through a special session to quickly pass the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act to loosen the purse strings of the national government and empower the executive to quickly respond to the global crisis.

He emphasized that though the Senate was part of a confirmed cluster of COVID-19 cases and though the legislators have also done what they can under their constitutionally mandated role, they all continue to work in their own ways to provide relief to citizens in parallel to the efforts of the executive. Citizens may not see this because these legislators are not constantly broadcasting their efforts to the media.

He then asked local government officials, who are crucial in the implementation of COVID-19 containment and relief operations, to not take this time to grandstand or forward their political legacies.

“Tigilan natin ang pangpapacover ng ating mga ginagawa, ito naman ay ating sinumpaang tungkulin. Tigilan muna ang pagiging EPAL at pagiging KSP,” Sotto said.

“Ibuhos ang lahat ng kakayanan at lakas sa totoong serbisyo publiko, may nakatingin man o wala,” read the statement.

Some certain local government officials have seemingly capitalized on the enhanced community quarantine to broadcast their brand of service, at the expense of the people’s trust in the national government. Mainstream media outlets, most of which are blatantly hostile to the administration, were also instrumental in creating this rivalry between “good” local government officials and the abusive and uncaring national government.

One example is Senate President Sotto’s own nephew, Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto. While the young mayor himself may not have fed the controversy intentionally, he has been made the figurehead by media and minority voters of the movement against the evil central government. Unfortunately, the work provided by one Mayor, even if contradictory to national policies, has overshadowed the concrete plans laid out by the national government and eroded public trust.

As a result, fake news is spread like wildfire so long as it affirms the confirmation bias of people who were groomed by the media coverage of Mayor Sotto.

Of course, the national government, particularly the NBI, have not been perfect in their own actions. However, the NBI and those responsible for the unjust filing of charges against Mayor Sotto have since been appropriately reprimanded. What has not been fixed is the public opinion of the dichotomy of government, which is leading to nothing but chaos during the quarantine.

Rather than providing relief to the people during this time of crisis, the excessive and unnecessary media coverage of local government officials has created a division in the Filipino people which has pit the government against itself, instead of the nation as one fighting against COVID-19.

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