By Edelyn Cantillo, Staff Writer and Mae Favila, Feature Editor
Plagiarism is widespread in the Senate, but some staff members of the senators consider it as an acceptable practice. Senators include passages from various authors in their speeches and claim it as their own; and Sotto is not an excuse.
The Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III was accused of plagiarizing US blogger, Sarah Pope in his opening speech against the RH Bill but the senator was quick to deny it. Sotto even said that he quoted Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s explanation about the effects of contraceptive pills for women and future child’s health, not the blogger.
On her blog, Pope confirmed that Sotto plagiarized her work because she put McBride’s idea into her own words. She also said that she don’t like the fact that the message of her blog was twisted for the senator’s own purposes and even called Sotto as a ‘lying thief’.
“A thief is a thief, Mr. Senator. Denying it doesn’t get you off the hook: it just makes you a lying thief” Pope said.
After the complaint made by Pope, the citizens thought the senator will learn from his mistakes—but he just made anew.
It was said that Sotto used a quote from the late US Senator Robert Kennedy which he translated into Filipino in his succeeding speech. He even noted that he used the language in his speech to make sure that he wouldn’t be accused of plagiarism again.
He added that he got that quote through a text message sent by a friend and by that time did not know it was from Senator Kennedy’s speech.
The late senator’s daughter, Kerry Kennedy then sent a personal letter to Sotto and urged him to apologize publicly. Sotto not only plagiarized one blogger but three to be more precise.
What is plagiarism?
It seems that this action has been an ‘easy-bee’ for some politicians nowadays who deliver their speeches to make them more renowned and to impress their constituents for them to be who they are in their position.
According to the Republic Act No. 8293 or the Philippines Intellectual Property Code, plagiarism is an act of illegally copying other people’s ideas or creation and using it without the creator’s permission.
While Sotto is in denial for plagiarizing the bloggers and Kennedy’s famous line, he perhaps did ‘unintentional plagiarism’—a form of failing to give credit or just quoting the idea of the author.
This illegal act does not only apply for the prominent and public servants, this is also most probably a well-known act for students.
“Plagiarism is fraud. Taking one’s idea as your own is considered theft as it is considered intellectual property. Regarding Sotto’s case, he is a lawmaker and therefore [he] should abide by the law,” a student from University of Santo Tomas said but refused to be named.
However, contary to the opinion by a UST student, an online article survey made by CNN showed that students think that plagiarizing is not a big deal. One student believed that doing it won’t make them less as a person.
“We students know that we are almost completely judged on our grades. They are so important that we will sacrifice our own integrity to make a good impression,” she said.
A student might really know what is plagiarism but do not have enough knowledge on it. Internet sources are the number one purpose today why students commit plagiarism as it gives them the idea on how they could slog on their papers.
Unethical vs. illegal
Being a public servant, is like being a Good Samaritan as they were able to address the people cries; thus, it requires them to be proper at all times.
Sotto may think he has not done any illegal act as he was making a stand by what he did. He does not confirm nor told the truth by his actions but every citizen know what he did was unethical.
According to an expert, unethical is a deed that is against morality but not against the law. And by the senator’s action, he was unethical but his deed claimed as illegal.
Last Tuesday, November 12, various people from the academe and various universities in the Philippines joined forces with the US bloggers in filing a complaint for Sotto’s violation of the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines.
But it seems Sen. Sotto was not alone after all in facing the issue; as the Senate president, Juan Ponce Enrile got his back.
‘Ignorant’ is the word used by Enrile to those bloggers who have threatened to file an ethics complaint against Senator Sotto.
“You cannot discipline anybody here unless they commit a crime. If you commit a crime, you can charge them. They can file an ethics case [but] what ethical misconduct is there?” he added.
However, the Senate president simplified the issue of plagiarism is about lawmaker’s “individual responsibility” more than a rule against plagiarism in the legislative body.
It takes a Kennedy to apologize
If Sotto snubs the request of Pope apologizing to her and even in public, it takes a Kennedy to concede his charge-but not strongly admitting his fault.
Though he apologized to the Kennedy family, Kerry Kennedy was unconvinced of Sotto’s sincerity.
“All he had to do was acknowledge that these are Robert Kennedy’s words,” she said, referring to the parts of RFK’s 1966 Day of Affirmation Speech—as she noted in her Nov. 9 open letter.
Before apologizing to the Kennedy’s, Sotto said that the Kennedy’s were misinformed to get them to say something against him.
“If it insulted the Kennedy family then I’m sorry, but that was not the intention,” he said.
This instance surely made the people ask, “How will we abide the laws if the one who’s creating it committing the same crime?”
As what the Senate President said, we cannot question them for what they say inside the Chamber, not because they are people with special breed but because they were given immunity by the Constitution.
“Copying or imitation is the highest form of flattery.”—Sen. Sotto.