The Escalation of Sotto’s (Comedic) Escapade

Update: Kennedy to Sotto: ‘This is a clear case of plagiarism What Kerry Kennedy had to say after Sotto plagiarized her father’s speech.

My past posts about Senator Sotto have been very emotional. After seeing the lack of logic behind comments that support Sotto regardless of what he did, I think it is time to be the better man (or woman) and outline the logical explanation regarding this escalation of the matter.

Scenario: Senator Tito Sotto delivered a speech against the proposed RH Bill. A Pro-RH group discovered passages in his speech which were copied verbatim, even the wrong punctuations, from a blog post by Sarah Pope. Sotto immediately denied this allegation, going as far as saying that Pope is “just a blogger” and that he had no reason to use her work as reference.

Articles and Links for Reference regarding this Issue:

If you have questions about my statements which are not covered by these links, whether Sotto said them or not or if the events really did transpire, I don’t ask you to believe me. Instead, I ask you to look it up on the internet and newspapers, and make an informed opinion regarding this matter.

Text of Sotto’s speech Part 1 which contains the part that plagiarized Sarah Pope’s blog. This is taken from GMA Network’s site because, as of writing, the Senate entry of this speech is “Unavailable”

Text of Sotto’s speech Part 2 which also contains plagiarized parts, from other blogs.

Sarah Pope’s blog post which was plagiarized

Sarah Pope’s blog post where  Attorney Villacorta posted sa lezel

One of the first news articles regarding the plagiarism (Sunstar)

One of Villacorta’s first claims that   a blog “is public domain” (GMA News)

Sotto claims that  he is being bullied (Inquirer)

How Sotto could have avoided this scenario:

1. Sotto should have written his own speech. In the speech itself, he said that it was very personal for him, so why did he depend on his staff to write the whole speech? At the very least, he could have double-checked the source of information. If so he would have at least avoided looking like a fool when he claimed that he would not copy from “just a blog”, only for his staff to admit later on that they did, in fact, copy from Pope’s blog. Sotto has time to appear in the noontime show “Eat Bulaga”, why did he not have time to write or check his own speech?

2. Sotto should have held his tongue until he was sure of the facts surrounding the plagiarism issue. He should have asked his staff before he issued a public statement. If only he held his tongue, he would not have sounded like a liar when his own staff admitted that they copied the blog post.

3. Sotto should have apologized to Sarah Pope. That was all that she wanted, an apology. Instead, he ridiculed her and all other bloggers.

4. Sotto should have stopped talking a long time ago. He should know how to hold his tongue. He should have allowed this issue to die down if he did not want to apologize, but instead he keeps talking in public and he even uses his privelege speech as a Senator to speak about this matter, knowing that he is immune against legal actions if he is speaking as a Senator. If he was really so sure about his innocence, why did he not deliver that speech in a time and place where he was not immune?

5. Sotto should have hired a different lawyer. Villacorta’s haughty statements and his sarcastic “apology”, which was written in bad English as a comment for public viewing on Sarah Pope’s blog post, in addition to his many remarks that plagiarism is acceptable… even going as far as saying that our image as humankind is “copied from God” anyway. It is very unbecoming of a Senator’s Chief of Staff, and questions his knowledge and expertise as a lawyer. What will happen if he is assigned to, or takes up, a case that regards plagiarism, and his client is the victim? What if the situation is reversed and a Filipino’s work is plagiarized? Would Villacorta have said that “it’s okay, we copied our image from God anyway”?

What Sotto can do to alleviate the situation:

1. Apologize. For the love of all that is good, just apologize, Sotto. Apologize to Pope and to all bloggers for looking down on them (us), apologize to the thinking Filipino people who criticized you for what you did because they knew that it was wrong. The public did not even care much the first time that this plagiarism issue exploded. Only the Senator’s and Villacorta’s succeeding statements, which are downright misinformed, arrogant and sarcastic, really drew in the ire of the Filipino public.

2. Sotto should get his facts straight. The questions that are being thrown at him aren’t all about plagiarism. Here are other issues:

  • Sotto said that his wife took Bayer’s Diane pills in 1974 which he said resulted to the death of his son, due to a heart condition, in 1975. But the Diane pills were not available to the public until 1978, and were available in Asia only around 1985. Furthermore, Diane pills were not initially used for contraception, rather they were used for stabilizing one’s hormones to avoid acne. Bayer HealthCare’s website and the history of their products are clear evidence that Sotto’s claim was inaccurate.
  • Sotto said that the death of his son dealt a heavy blow, but his career shows otherwise. In 1977, Tito-Vic-and-Joey released a “Tough Hits” album which included, among many things, “Family Planning Department”. Other songs in that album tell people that they should take up family planning to avoid increasing the number of children. Some songs made fun of contraception and intercourse. I encourage you to check the lyrics for yourself and tell me how a man, who has been emotionally wounded by the death of a son, can sing such songs and make money out of it. One can easily find these lyrics via a search engine such as Google.
  • Sotto’s speech contained copied and pasted material from other blogs that are, oddly enough, PRO-CHOICE. As one of the copied bloggers asked, there are already many blogs and researches made by the PRO-LIFE side, why did Sotto use PRO-CHOICE blogs?

3. Stop pointing fingers. Sotto has accused almost everyone: Sarah Pope, his staff, Pro-choice advocates, his critics (which includes a sizable portion of the Filipino netizen population)- everyone but his own self. He seems to have assumed that everyone who is criticizing him now is a hater. How many people put him in the Senate? How many people are criticizing him now? Surely the numbers have overlapped. I, for one, did vote for him in the past election. I am Pro-choice, but I never thought of not voting for him just for his stand on the RH Bill. I thought that as long as he did his job well and carried himself intelligently and as a dignified member of society, then I would have voted for him. This is truly a personal letdown for me. The person whom I voted for has, albeit indirectly, even accused me of being a drunkard and a mindless hater all because I had enough free will and intelligence to point out that what he was doing is very wrong. And from what I recall (correct me if I am mistaken), Sotto told former Chief Justice Corona that although Corona’s accountant was the one who filed the erred returns which led to the trials, Corona was still held accountable because it was HIS returns, and HIS signature on it. Why is this not applicable to you now, Sotto?

4. Stop downplaying the issue : PLAGIARISM. The issue has never been about the RH bill. His speech could have been something mundane, nonetheless that does not make plagiarism any less of an issue. The issue is that his speech was copied, verbatim, from a blogger’s post; he did not attribute it, he denied that it was copied, he belittled his victim and to this day, he has maintained that he did nothing wrong despite glaring evidence that he did.

5. Hire a new Chief of Staff. Villacorta is even worse than Sotto. I know that Sotto did not study law as a profession, therefore there will be inaccuracies in what he says. However, Villacorta, who is a licensed attorney, should know better than to spout the nonsense that he is saying (“the internet is public domain!”).

Why does this matter to the Filipino people?

1. Because we elected him. We were responsible for putting him in his position, therefore we should watch how this person whom we voted for is doing his job. And even if you, the reader, are not one of the people who elected him…

2. A Senator is a public official, a servant of the people. We, as a whole, are his bosses. Sotto is responsible for his staff’s conduct (and misconduct), similarly we should feel the responsibility to correct Sotto’s conduct (and misconduct). A Senator is paid with the public’s money. Your money, my money, our taxes- Sotto pockets them legally, so the least that he could do is do his job well and represent his country in a dignified manner.

3. If a Senator can say that it is okay to plagiarize because he is not criminally-liable (legalities), how can we even teach the younger generation about the immorality of plagiarism? What message does it send to younger generations?

4. A Senator is a representative of his country. His conduct, his words, they represent the Filipino people because he was an elected government official. I’d like to quote a 2007 film Shooter where the Senator ordered that a whole village be wiped out to claim the oil on their land. The law can do nothing against the Senator, therefore a man named Swagger takes revenge for himself and the Senator’s other victims :

Senator Meachum: ” You can’t do this to me! I am a (USA) Senator! ”
Swagger: ” Exactly. ”

– emphasizing that a Senator, as a representative of his country, should be held more accountable for anything that he or his underlings have done, instead of the other way around (immunity).

5. Sotto and Villacorta are misinforming the public. Read the next section to understand what I mean.

What I would like to clarify:

1. Plagiarism is not always punishable by law, but it is always immoral and never acceptable. It is similar to theft, only you steal words and ideas instead of physical things. Plagiarism does not always mean that you “claimed” words and ideas as your own. Neglecting to state the reference already implies that you spun those words from your own mind, when in fact it was a fruit of the someone else’s hard work and intellect. Here is a concise definition of plagiarism: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/plagiarism

2. The internet and the world wide web (WWW) are not completely public domain. Much like the “real” world, there are private properties in the internet and WWW. For example, Bayer’s website. The information about their products is available to the public, but it is only to be used as a reference and those who use that information should not claim the research, images or anything on that site as their own. Those who use that information should also clearly state, even just in footnotes, that the source is Bayer’s website.

3. Blogs are protected by intellectual right licenses and copyrights. This is stated in each blog sites’ Terms of Service (TOS). Anyone who visits and uses the site is encompassed by the TOS. This is no different from going to another country; even if you did not know that country’s rules, that does not make you exempt from them.

4. Blogs are not used for “bullying” people only. I don’t know where people even got this idea that blogs are just used for saying bad things about someone else. A blog is merely a “web log” that is a discussion or information site on the world wide web. Sites where people get their information about new recipes, the latest trends in fashion, first aid procedures, even programming and drawing- many of those are BLOG sites, it is just not obvious that they are blogs due to the way that the site is laid out. There are also edublogs, photo blogs, art blogs, video blogs, MP3 blogs and podcasts (audio blog). For example, right here on WordPress, I looked for a random recipe blog and I found  this one. I also frequent a lovely art blog about a cat lover’s daily life. So, are all blogs for bullying people only? No. Just like everything else, a blog can be either good or bad. To generalize them is like saying ” well, Sotto plagiarized, so all Philippine Senators plagiarize!

5. Research is the source of many products and techniques. Researchers put time and effort on what they do, sometimes they do it for free just for the sake of acquiring and sharing knowledge. When they share that knowledge via any media, even with a lack of copyright or license, it is completely immoral and unethical to not, at the very least, attribute that research to whoever did it. Copying and pasting whole blocks of words isn’t research. Reading through a book, comparing it with other reference materials, and wording one’s findings so that it will flow smoothly to impart what one wants to say- that is research. That is what was stolen from Sarah Pope.


Here is an analogy:

A man wants to build a house by using red bricks. He sends his men through the neighborhood to, initially, research about the type of bricks that can be used. His men find a building that is under construction, which is closely related to what their boss wanted. Those men find red bricks on that lot and they take those bricks. They then use it to build their boss’ house. The boss, after seeing the bricks, does not even question where it is from. When the owner of the building under construction, and the bricks, tells the boss that those bricks were stolen from his lot, the boss ridicules the building owner. Even when the men admit their thievery and the red bricks are shown to have unique properties that make them different from all other red bricks, and consequently belonging only to the building owner, the boss never apologizes. Instead, the boss says that he is being bullied. The boss’ engineer even says that the bricks were in plain sight anyway, so it was okay for the men to take it.

Sotto is the boss. His staff are the men. Sarah Pope and other bloggers whose words were plagiarized are the building owner. The building and lot, which the men went into, are the blogs and websites which have their own copyrights and licenses as stated in their Terms of Service. Villacorta is the engineer who said that because the bricks were in plain sight, anyone can take them. Now, imagine if this happened to you? Someone took your car because it was parked on the street. Someone took your phone because it was on a table. Even if the culprit is never caught, does it make the act any less wrong and immoral?

Oh I almost forgot. Some people say that Sotto already apologized. Here’s his “explanation” about the “apology”: Sotto: Apology was to shut up US blogger (ABSCBN News)

Quote: “Ang intindi ko doon ay para nalang matahimik ka. Something to that effect. Pero hindi ‘yong mahalaga, mas mahalaga ‘yong ginawa ko kahapon, which is, ‘Strike it off the record,'” he said.

Translation: ” In my understanding (Villacorta’s apology on Sarah Pope’s site), it was done to make you (Sarah Pope) shut up. Something to that effect. But it is not important, what’s more important is what I did yesterday which is ‘Strike it (the copied part) off the record’,” he (Sotto) said.

How is this an apology? Does removing the evidence from the record make the act of plagiarism any less immoral? If anything, it shows that Sotto is arrogant, unapologetic and wishes to just cover his tracks.

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