Vicente Sotto

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Vicente Yap Sotto (18 April 1877 – 28 May 1950) was a former Senator of the Philippines. He was considered as one of the greatest Cebuanos of the 20th century. He was a man of protean talent. As the “Father of Modern Cebuano Literature,” he was a prolific writer and publisher. He was also a pioneering labor leader and a renowned lawyer. As a senator, he was the main author of the “Press Freedom Law” (now known as the “Sotto Law,” Republic Act No. 53)

His achievements lie in two areas: (1) law, politics, and government; and (2) culture and letters.

Senator Vicente Yap Sotto is considered as one of the Unsung Heroes of the Philippines. WikiPilipinas refers to Senator Vicente Sotto as one of the so-called “Forgotten” People in Philippine history – people who, unfortunately, were not given much attention in traditional studies and mainstream histories, but are equally heroic in their own simple yet significant ways.

He was called the "most militant and aggressive" of the Filipino advocates of complete and immediate independence in the first decades of the 20th century. His contemporaries called him the “Great Dissenter”, an archetypal political oppositionist who fought for his convictions with little regard of the cost.A fighter of lost causes and "defender of the poor and oppressed", he was one of the most active and best-known criminal lawyers of his time.


Early life and education

Sotto was born in Cebu City on 18 April 1877 to Marcelino Sotto and Pascuala Yap.

He finished his secondary education at the University of San Carlos (formerly Colegio de San Carlos) in Cebu City. He obtained the degree of Bachelor of Laws and Judicial Science and passed the bar examinations in 1907.


In 1902, Sotto entered politics when he ran for a seat at the municipal council of Cebu and won. In 1907, he was elected mayor despite his absence during the election owing to his involvement in a court battle caused by a kidnapping suit lodge against him by his opponent, and was forced to stay in Hongkong. After seven years in the Crown Colony, Senator Sotto decided to return to the country in 1914.

In 1922, he was elected representative of the second district of Cebu and served until 1925. On November 1946, he ran for Senator and won. He served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance until 1950.

When he died at the age of 73, his colleagues in the Senate of the Philippines remember him as the recalcitrant, principled Sotto:

"The man was like a citadel,impregnable to political whims because strong beliefs formed the bedrock of his whole being(Senator Quintin Paredes);

"A great soldier of democracy and liberal thought"(Senator Tomas Confessor),

"His soul of steel never knew the word'surrender'(Carlos P. Garcia,8th President of the Philippines ).

"We have lost a fighter." Senator Lorenzo Tanada tersely said.

Senator Vicente Yap Sotto: Contributions to Law and Government

Sotto was the author of the Press Freedom Law enacted in 1946. It protects “[ the publisher, editor, columnist or duly accredited reporter of any newspaper, magazine or periodical of general circulation. RA 53 is aimed precisely to protect press freedom and keep irate politicians from intimidating journalists and their sources if they do not like what they read].”

To learn more about the said law, please see this link.

Senator Vicente Yap Sotto: Contributions to Culture and Letters

Sotto is also regarded as the Father of Cebuano Language and Letters. When he was only 22 years old (about 1899), he put up La Justicia, the first newspaper in Cebu published by a Philippine citizen, in which he defended the issue of Philippine independence. It was suspended on orders by the American military governor. In the week following, the undaunted Sotto begun publishing El Nacional. This was also ordered closed and Sotto was imprisoned at Fort San Pedro for two months and six days. After this experience, he begun using the pen name Taga Kotta (of the fort, or resident of the fort). He was found guilty of treason as a member of a committee of rebels along with those in Manila and Hong Kong. When he was freed in 1900, he published Ang Suga (The Light), which was first issued on June 16, 1901. He was forced to flee to Hong Kong in 1907. There he organized in 1911 the English-Spanish fortnightly The Philippine Republic. Its publication was stopped a year later and its editor was arrested. Sotto's extradition was requested three times by the American government but every time it was denied by the British courts. The Philippine Republic resumed publication after a month of suspension.In 1915, Sotto returned to Manila and begun work on a weekly journal he named The Independent. He issued a special edition of this journal in Paris in 1929. The news item prompted an American senator to introduce a resolution in the United States Senate to grant immediate independence to the Philippines.

Senator Vicente Sotto is best known for his achievements as nationalistic journalist,but he is equally famous as a creative writer. His play "Pahigugma sa Yutang Natawhan"(Love of Native Land),dramatized the Cebuano people's heroic struggle against Spanish feudal rule in the modern realist mode.

The first written Cebuano short story was Maming, by Vicente Sotto, The Father of Cebuano Literature. The story was published in the first issue (July 16, 1900) of his Ang Suga.

Two years later Sotto wrote, directed, and produced the first Cebuano play,Elena,a play in three acts. It was first performed at the Teatro Junquera (in what is now Cebu City) on May 18, 1902. The play established Sotto's reputation as a playwright.

The dedication of the play by the playwright reads, "To My Motherland, that you may have remembrance of the glorious Revolution that redeemed you from enslavement. I dedicate this humble play to you."

Tributes to Senator Vicente Yap Sotto

  • "Vicente Sotto was a rock of Gibraltar in character because of the ruggedness of his conviction, the indomitability of his soul, the sublimity of his courage, and the depth of his faith in the ultimate triumph of justice. His knees no bending, his pen signed no retraction, his march saw no retreat, and his soul of steel knowns no surrender. He marshaled his efforts and used his influence to secure and safeguard for the press the fullest measure of freedom. By his death the country has lost a great patriot, his family has lost a loving and devote father, the Senate has lost an illustrious member..." - Carlos P. Garcia, 8th President of the Philippines'
  • President Elpidio Quirino extolled Vicente Sotto :"Senator Sotto,as a confirmed non-conformist,led a full life,and it is a grateful commentary on our democratic sysem that up to the end he enjoyed the opportunity to serve our people in his own way without diminution of his freedom of action.Thus he has strengthened,and contributed to the enrichment of our institutions."
  • His dissenting spirit scarcely dimmed.Less than two months after his death,a Philippine Free Press article said of him:"Sotto is very much alive,still eating fire or cayenne.No political party swallow him;he has remained true to the name of a fighter.He has extremely bad manners,but when real need arises...he jumps into the fray in true Volta
  • In naming him one of the 100 Greatest Cebuanos of the century, Sun.Star Cebu said of Vicente Sotto:“His achievements span such fields as journalism, literature, labor unionism, law, and politics. Considered “the Father” of Cebuano journalism, literature, and language, he published the pioneering newspapers La Justicia in 1899 (the first Filipino newspaper of Cebu), Ang Suga (the first newspaper in Cebuano), and a number of other periodicals.”
  • Republic Act 7528 was approved on May 21, 1992, renaming a a well known Philippine government hospital in Cebu City as the " Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center" in honor of Senator Vicente Sotto of Cebu.

Books on Senator Vicente Yap Sotto

  • "Vicente Sotto,The Maverick Senator" by Resil Mojares(winner of five Philippine National Book awards) Center for Cebuano Studies center(1992)

  • Ramas, Wilhelmina Q. Elements of Sugbuanon Theatre. Volume III: Four Plays Representing Vicente Sotto’s Elena, Antonio Abad’s Magda, Vicente Alcoseba’s Paz, Buenaventura Rodriguez’s Lili.
  • 'Dulaang Cebuano translated by Don Pagusara(Ateneo De Manila University Press)Collected and translated into English by Resil Mojares and Erlinda Alburo.Includes the play "Ang Pag-ibig sa Lupang Sinilangan" (by Vicente Sotto).Winner of National Book Award, as part of the Panitikan Series.
  • The "Nation" in Vicente Sotto's Literary Imagination:a Study of Thirteen Cebuano stories by Rosario Cruz-Lucero.(The Philippine Quarterly of Culture and Society).
  • "Through the Generations"by ernest sotto ;Two granddads...separated by time.Independent thinkers and principled men. A personal journey to discover roots and to guide the next generation of mavericks...



  • "Vicente Sotto,The Maverick Senator" by Resil B.Mojares(winner of five Philippine National Book awards)Center for Cebuano Studies center(1992)

  • The National Press Club warns vs repeal of Sotto law protecting sources Retrieved from ""

  • "Protection of sources..Statement of NUJP-National Union of Journalists of the Philippines"



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