Editorial: Enough is enough

On August 3, 2012, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III delivered a privilege speech against Senate Bill 2865 otherwise known as the Reproductive Health Bill. He managed to woo the public, including his harshest critics, after talking about an abortion his wife had due to contraceptive pills.


Two days after, an allegation was made that Sotto had plagiarized several parts of a blog by Sarah Pope in his privilege speech. A few days after the allegation was made, Sotto was interviewed about the issue. He denied that he plagiarized the speech, and even furthered that he actually quoted a source – Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a nutritionist and a medical doctor.


Less than a month after his privilege speech, Sotto, in the third and fourth part of his turno en contra speech, again plagiarized Robert F. Kennedy’s Day of Affirmation speech, given to the National Union of South African Students in Cape Town, insulting the Kennedy family, making the well-known and well-loved family in the US to file a complaint. Sotto argued, however, that he had translated the texts into English, and that translating a text into Filipino without giving credit is not plagiarism.


Days after the Kennedys filed a complaint, Sotto issued an apology, fueling public and netizen outcry for his resignation. The experienced senator explained, “Copying or imitation is the highest form of flattery. If it upsets the Kennedy family, I’m sorry. But that is not the intention that we have.”


In addition, the senator called attention to an article that accused John F. Kennedy, the brother of the late Robert Kennedy, of plagiarizing a speech.


Last week, 37 complainants composed of bloggers, university professors and members of a freethinking group, filed an ethics complaint against the Senate Majority Floor Leader for alleged plagiarism in his speeches.


While Senator Sotto claims that he did not intend to offend any of the parties involved, including Pope and the Kennedys, we believe that the senator needs to man up. Plagiarism is a serious issue; it is taking someone else’s work and claiming it as your own, even if you had no intention to in the first place.


Moreover, plagiarism is an insult to the original writer, artist, or researcher who spent time and resources to produce something that person could call his or her own. Hence, professors and students receive heavy penalties for plagiarizing even the smallest detail of a work.


As a senator of the Philippines who carries the emblem of the senate, which stands for honor and dignity among other values, Senator Sotto needs to realize that there is honor and dignity in graciously admitting a mistake, even two or three done consecutively.


In addition, senators need to abide by their motto, Legis Servitae Pax Fiat, which means “Law Serves Peace, Let It Be Done.” The quote basically explains that senators need to pass laws that would help the country attain peace.  He needs to focus on the more important aspect of his job—making, defending and questioning bills for the country and its citizens.


The plagiarism case though has raised several valid issues, aside from the confusion and public outcry Sotto has created. Plagiarism is a serious issue, and it is the role of every student and professor to promote the culture of intellectual honesty—one based on respect, instead of one governed by punishment.


Moreover, the issue has caused massive public abuse of social networking sites. Netizens need to realize that freedom is not absolute, and though people still get away with cyberbullying, these do not achieve anything, and will continue to cause bad public relations for the country.


The best way to make a change in the government is through the elections. Senator Sotto may run again for another senatorial term in 2016, which begs another disturbing question: how many netizens would actually find the time to vote?

The LaSallian

By The LaSallian

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