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Sunday, November 11, 2012

An Update on the Sotto Plagiarism: Formal Complaints

After staying under the radar for the past two months or so, Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III is back on track, with the repercussions from his multiple plagiarisms in his turno en contra speeches against the reproductive health (RH) bill.

To recap, back in August and September (which, I should note, is light-years away in the Philippine context), Senator Sotto delivered a series of speeches against the RH bill. In doing so, he and his staff wound up lifting text verbatim from the posts of several American bloggers. Instead of admitting his mistake and apologizing for the errors, Senator Sotto and his chief of staff went on the offensive, and denied any wrongdoing. As a result, social media netizens pilloried the senator, and his last name became a verb to demonstrate unrepentant plagiarizing.

Senator Sotto was not done at that point. In September, he delivered a speech against the RH bill, and, to supposedly forestall any possible plagiarism, he delivered his speech in Filipino. However, it was immediately noted that his speech was a direct translation of the late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy's 1966 Day of Affirmation speech, which Kennedy had delivered in South Africa.

Image taken from Foxyreign

Once more, the unrepentant Sotto refused to apologize, flippantly questioning whether Senator Kennedy even spoke Filipino.

The late Senator Kennedy's estate apparently was not amused. According to Filipino author Miguel Syjuco, Kerry Kennedy, who heads the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, has supposedly filed a letter of complaint castigating Sotto for his plagiarism. In the letter, Ms. Kennedy notes that, even translated, Sotto committed plagiarism when he did not attribute his words to the late Senator. She also notes that Sotto also plagiarized from various bloggers, and calls on Sotto to apologize for his actions.

The letter was submitted to the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges, chaired by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano. As Syjuco noted, it is up to the Committee to judge their colleague fairly; apparently, as Majority Leader, Sotto is actually on the Committee, albeit as ex officio member. The other members are Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago, Gregorio Honasan, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Lito Lapid, and Joker Arroyo.

The last time one of our government officials was caught plagiarizing, it was no less than a member of the Supreme Court. His colleagues decided to absolve him, and came up with a definition of plagiarism that damaged the credibility of the Court. The question is, will the Senators on the Ethics Committee do the same? If they do so, we should take note of whoever is running next year, and campaign against their re-election, since they don't deserve to be Senators.

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