AN accomplished public servant, a conscientious lawmaker, a champion sportsman and a multi-awarded artist, Sen. Vicente ‘Tito’ Sotto 3rd has long led his life with a quest for excellence.
“Since childhood, it has always been my practice to do the best in everything I choose to pursue,” said the re-electionist and frontrunner in 2016’s senatorial race.
“I don’t divide my attention among politics, showbiz, sports or even my family,” he continued. “I weave them all together because I find that only then can I do my best in all
True enough, the 67-year-old man of many distinguished hats transitioned quickly from comedian to political subject in this exclusive interview with The Sunday Times Magazine.
He had just finished another live episode of the country’s longest running television program—the iconic noontime show Eat Bulaga, led by his legendary troika “Tito, Vic and Joey”—without even pausing to rest. Yet, he was a hundred percent in taking every question in the next hour that followed, with a genuine interest and effort in providing insightful answers for a public still eager to know more about him.
At the height of his career as an accomplished actor, singer, and musician, Sotto realized he had a calling for public service. But while he faced what others might mistake for a crossroads in one’s life and career, Sotto, like he said, “weaved” both his celebrity stature and impulse to solve the worsening drug problem in Quezon City together.
Knowing his reach and influence as a movie and TV personality, he ran on a platform of championing the war against illegal drugs, and won by a landslide as city vice mayor in 1988.
Immediately, he founded and organized the highly effective Quezon City Anti-Drug Council, which was replicated in many local government units.
“When I became vice mayor of Quezon City and was given the opportunity to head the Anti-Drug Council, I eventually saw the bigger picture of the drug problem in the country,” he recalled. “I knew I could do better in the fight so after my first term, I decided to run for the Senate with the revision of the Dangerous Act of 1992 as my goal,” he explained.
Sotto untiringly pursued the war against illegal drugs until the Comprehensive Dangerous Act of 2002 was ratified. He was honored twice by the US-based International Narcotics Enforcement Officers Association for this achievement, but instead found fulfillment in knowing how the law would save lives of countless Filipinos.
In Sotto’s last 24 years as a public servant, he has spent three six-year terms (1992 to 1998, 1998 to 2004, and 2010 to present) as senator, and two years serving as chairman of the
Dangerous Drugs Board under the Office of the President.
On October 14, he filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for another term in the Senate beginning 2016 so that he may continue to strive in finding ways to enhance and improve his pro-life, pro-peace and pro-Filipino family advocacies, which in many ways are interrelated with his anti-drug campaign.
“It’s because of these goals that I distinctively declined to run for higher office despite offers from other politicians. I’m focused on doing my best for these causes,” Sotto declared
With every accomplishment in Tito Sotto’s public life already written about—be it his evolution as an artist to his growth as a veteran lawmaker —today’s interview interestingly discovers the smaller details on how he traverses his quest for excellence in his craft, calling and even his personal life. In doing so, the best of Tito Sotto is uncovered, as a public servant, a celebrity, a friend, a husband, father and grandfather.
Sunday Times Magazine (STM): As Deputy Minority Leader, what are your current functions in the Senate?
Sotto: When Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was incarcerated, we automatically became the minority and I acted as the minority leader. Now that he’s back, I act as the assistant minority leader. We support the minority and serve as fiscalizers in the Senate.
STM: Among the 103 laws you authored and supported in your three Senate terms, which do you believe are most significant?
Sotto: Besides the Comprehensive Dangerous Act of 2002 that I principally authored, I am partial to all the laws that concern the Filipino family—those that are pro-life [and]pro-peace, as well as those that will benefit the youth and the underprivileged. I am particularly proud of the law that established the Family Courts (Republic Act 8369) because it fortifies my advocacy in uplifting the situation of every Filipino.
Another law that I am proud of is the law that converted many municipalities into cities like Makati, Marikina, Pasig, Parañaque, and Muntinlupa, among others. I authored this law with the late Sen. Joker Arroyo. These almost 25 municipalities will not be as progressive as they are today had they not been converted into cities. This was one of my priority bills because of my experience as a vice mayor. I knew that one of the major problems of local government units is funding and this law helped these cities uplift their income. I was also the president of the Vice Mayor League of the Philippines at that time so I saw and learned about the problems of LGUs firsthand.
STM: Why did you support the RH Bill when you have always had a pro-life stance.
Sotto: There are laws that I don’t like but I support because I know that all the provisions were scrutinized and studied before they were passed. I was very much aware that before RH Bill was passed, it went through a very rigid and strict study.
STM: With the coming elections, you had also declared, besides running for reelection, that you would support Sen. Grace Poe in her bid for the presidency.
Sotto: Yes, I believe Grace is sincere. She’s a fast learner and has a good heart. To top it all, the people love her. I think that is the most important thing that a leader should possess—people must love him or her. I’m also keen on supporting her because of our relationship with her family—the late Fernando Poe Jr., his wife Susan, and myself my wife Helen [Gamboa] are family friends. Secretary Mar (Roxas) and Vice President (Jejomar) Binay understand my situation.
STM: How do you manage your time as a Senator with your hosting duties in ‘Eat Bulaga?’
Sotto: I attend the Senate sessions Mondays to Wednesdays and spend two days with Eat Bulaga every week. But now that the Senate is on break, I can host Eat Bulaga every day.
You see, I enjoy being in the show and being with our Dabarkads [the show’s nickname for its audience]. It’s a kind of therapy for me.
STM: Do you think being an Eat Bulaga host helps you in your job as a senator?
Sotto: Oh yes, I think being a host of Eat Bulaga is an advantage for me because my personal encounter with everyday folk in the audience help me zero in on the real needs of the Filipino people. Most of our audiences in Eat Bulaga are marginalized Filipinos.
And besides, the therapeutic factor and the income I get from the show is lot more lucrative than my pay as senator. (Laughs). Because of the length of time that Eat Bulaga has been on air, 37 years to be exact, my salary from this show is a big factor and serves as my insulation from graft and corruption.
STM: What is the secret of your strong friendship with Vic Sotto and Joey de Leon who make up “Tito, Vic and Joey”?
Sotto: Our friendship is very special. We have long decided to be one for all, all for one.
Yes, we are the original “Juan For All, All for Juan” [a segment in the Eat Bulaga]especially in decision-making when it comes to our endeavors as a group. When someone doesn’t agree with something, we don’t do it. That, I think, is our secret in staying together and going strong.
STM: What can you say about the AlDub phenomenon?
Sotto: It was an unexpected blessing for Eat Bulaga and we believe that it became a phenomenon because AlDub transformed the show into becoming a vehicle for popularizing good Filipino family values. We owe it to our Dabarkads for making AlDub what it is today.
We never planned it to be this way but everything fell into place, and we are very grateful for that. At first we had Lola Nidora (Wally Bayola) who gives health tips and medicines to different barangays, and then we thought of adding Yaya Dub (Maine Mendoza) as Lola Nidora’s assistant. It turned out she was a dubsmash phenomenon on YouTube, so as everyone knows, she wasn’t meant to talk or smile but she saw Alden Richards who also hosts the show, we noticed her face light up and just as quickly, she became self-conscious. The rest is history.
At our core, I do believe Eat Bulaga is now a public affairs program masquerading as an entertainment show. The heart of the program is in public service, which is why the show goes out to barangays to help as many Filipinos as we can. After 37 years, it’s all about giving back time now for Eat Bulaga, be it through giving people happiness, “kilig” like AlDub, or helping them better their lives.
STM: What many Filipinos, especially the young ones do not know, is that you are also a multi-awarded sportsman. Can you tell The Sunday Times more about this facet of your life.
Sotto: As I said before, I always give my best in everything that I do. I took up bowling and won gold in several international bowling competitions as part of the Philippine Bowling Team. [In 1978, Sotto represented the Philippines at the AMF Bowling World Cup in Bogota, Colombia, and again in1984, in Sydney, Australia].
There’s also one thing that I discovered lately in my career as an athlete. I was the first athlete who won three perfect games in bowling and three perfect hole in one in golf tournaments.
If I can still dream about being a sportsman, I would very much like to be the first national senior champion in golf.
STM: Do you have idols and mentors?
Sotto: I have many idols and mentors especially in my political career, and they are also the very same ones who tormented me during debates in the Senate. They were the ones who taught me and guided me to to be a better public servant and senator.
STM: After revealing your secret in friendship, what has kept your marriage and family life successful as well?
Sotto: I’ve been married for 46 years now and I give credit to Helen for keeping our family close and happy. I also look up to my parents Marcelino Ojeda Sotto and Dr. Herminia Castelo Sotto who taught me and my siblings, Vic, Val and Maru the value of family. And by the way, my mother was the first medical commissioner of the Workmen’s Compensation Commission.
Regularly, the whole family still gets together so that our children and grandchildren are close to each other—a typical Filipino trait we witnessed and experienced from our parents.
I have four children Romina, Diorella, Gian and Ciara, and seven grandsons and one granddaughter. Another one is coming and we’re praying we’ll be blessed with another girl in the family.