Politics & Culture: the old issue of Sotto

Several weeks ago, a buzz cropped up regarding the many cases of plagiarism committed by Senator Sotto (in assembly). It was revealed that he had lifted words of his speech against abortion from different bloggers.

This article Why Tito Sotto’s plagiarism matters is a well-written account of what happened and some of its implications. To quote,

…the senator had not only stolen words, but robbed them of their meaning, twisting the intent of the plagiarized authors to fit his purposes. I felt the untimely death of intellectual integrity was worth weeping over, ostentatiously, in public, because it’s the heart of public discourse.

Worse than plagiarizing (which is in itself already a culture in the Philippines; a justice in the SC had done it once, and, even in little ways, we all copy from other peoples) was Sotto’s unapologetic response to the veritable attack of incensed netizens and activists. His team defended him; he goaded the media and remained at large. Other personalities had owned up to their mistakes (MVP, for one), but he remained stout.

And there’s the rub. Plagiarism may be Sotto’s peccadillo, but his second and greatest sin is arrogant impunity—the sort we see when public officials believe themselves above the law. To those he plagiarized, Sotto said: “Come on! Sue me.”

And most damningly:

In truth, this will likely just fade away. As usual. We can’t even count on the Senate to admonish Sotto. Perhaps it’s omerta: Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile defended his colleague with thinking as cadaverous as it’s coddling. “Are there views on earth which were not copied from others?” Enrile’s reported as saying. “This word ‘democracy’ is not ours. We copied it from other countries.” Facepalm.

So what is happening now?

A month after the news all hit –that is, around September– Senator Sotto and his team of speechwriters and aides weren’t satisfied with lifting entire passages off another person’s blog, thereby violating their rights to intellectual property. No; in a speech against the reproductive health bill, he used a speech given by Robert Kennedy.

And there it was, ladies and gentlemen. Perfect proof that even with actions saying otherwise, some of our officials still think the country stupid. His plagiarism was blatant and once again unapologetic.

Even worse:

In a separate text message, the senator lamented that proponents of the RH bill were nitpicking.

Apparently this is all a tactic to refute his arguments. That is all the people’s campaign against irresponsible governance and honesty amounts to.

Where is he now?

Well, he’s still in senate. There hasn’t been any disciplinary actions against him or his (in fact, sources say even the Senate President swatted the issue away). But at the very least he is already planning to resign as Senate majority leader. But even in this he virtually reveals to a common mistake probably made by most politicians:

“Pagod na ako. Ang hirap ng trabaho. Palaging conscientious ka dito. You have to master the art of compromise, pero kung mahirap ang kausap mo, medyo ikaw pa ang nasisisi,” Sotto told reporters on Wednesday.

[I’m tired. This job is difficult. Here, you always have to be conscientious. You have to master the art of compromise, but if the person you’re addressing is hard to talk to, you’re the one who ends up getting blamed.]

He’s been a senator for many years and terms. He’s been the Senate majority leader, leading in assemblies and committees. And yet he reveals that he did not know what he was entering, and even after all his experiences he still had not learned what it is to be legislator. The very crux of law-making is compromise. He has nothing to regret.

Except for plagiarizing, of course.


Photos from philnews.ph and newsinfo.inquirer.net

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