Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Sotto Plagiarism: Facing the Complaints

One has to wonder what force is driving Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III to act like a jackass. Is it arrogance? Is it pride? Is it both? Whatever it is, his behavior has been reprehensible and unbecoming of a Senator.



Let's recap:

After committing several acts of plagiarism in his "turno en contra" speeches against the reproductive health (RH) bill, Senator Sotto then delivered a speech in Filipino, which turned out to be a direct translation of a speech delivered in 1966 by the late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy. When confronted with the news, the senator simply shrugged off the issue, and even flippantly asked whether Kennedy even knew how to speak Filipino.

This month, the bloggers from whom Senator Sotto plagiarized portions of his "turno en contra" speech, along with a number of academicians, filed a formal complaint against Sotto in the Senate ethics committee. In addition, the daughter of Senator Kennedy came out with a formal letter of complaint against Sotto, lambasting him for his plagiarism.

Senator Sotto's reaction to the complaints was predictable: he simply dismissed them outright, and even stated that the complaints could have been fabricated. It was only after the RFK Center for Human Rights and Justice confirmed the veracity of the letter that Sotto was forced to apologize, albeit grudgingly. The fact that, after the apology, he continued to deny his plagiarism makes his apology a hollow one.

Senator Sotto apparently wasn't done, since he attempted to turn the tables on Kennedy by texting the Inquirer that the late President John F. Kennedy also committed plagiarism, citing a Daily Mail story which claimed that President Kennedy stole his famous "Ask not what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" from his former headmaster.

The ball is now in the court of the Senate ethics committee, although I don't put much faith in its ability to censure Sotto for his arrogance. For one thing, Sotto himself is a member, although only as ex officio. Another is that Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who has already described the issue as a "tempest in a teacup", is also a member. Even Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile supported Sotto, although he backtracked later on and stated that Sotto must face the ethics committee. It's more likely that the committee will do a Supreme Court, and absolve Sotto on some flimsy reason.

It's interesting to note that the anti-RH crowd, led by lawyers Romulo Macalintal and Jess Sison, have come to Sotto's defense, by belittling the issue and supporting Sotto's claim that no plagiarism was committed. Their stance appears to be along the lines of defending one of their own, right or wrong. I'm not surprised by Makalintal's stance; as a former lawyer of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, it's not likely that he would recognize the wrongness of Sotto's actions. I'm surprised by Sison's stance; despite his anti-RH stand, he struck me as relatively objective outside of the issue.

Senator Sotto demonstrates one of the ills of Philippine politics: the arrogance of people who are in power, that they apparently believe they are above any law or reproach. And, once more, we only have ourselves to blame, for having put people like him in power to begin with.

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