MANILA, Philippines – The chief of staff of Sen Vicente “Tito” Sotto III finally admitted that parts of his speech against the RH bill on Wednesday, August 15, were copied from a blog by a foreign author who calls herself the “Healthy Home Economist.”
Lawyer Hector A. Villacorta, Sotto’s chief of staff, wrote Sarah Pope a response in the comments section of her blog in which he said: “I understand you felt slighted that your blog was not attributed to you which became part of the speech of the senator.”
“Let me say that after asking my staff, indeed your blog was used but only in quoting also from the same book of Dr. Campbell-Mcbride.”
In a text message to Rappler, Villacorta admitted that the message on Pope’s website and Facebook page indeed came from him.
“[It was a message] saying that my staff sourced it there. Semi-apology if she wanted to be credited. Our research for the past 5 months used the Internet also. It was a technical medical paragraph difficult to paraphrase.”
Villacorta admitted that the speech used information from Pope’s blog. “It was a quotation from a book and we said so.”
Willing to give credit
In the message posted on the blogger’s website and Facebook page, Sotto’s chief of staff offered to give credit to the blogger but also mentioned that both she and the senator “are both indebted to the book’s author.”
Villacorta then stated: “If you wish that you also be credited with the contents of this book, let this be your affirmation. I can do it and by this message, I am doing it. Hope this satisfies you.”
Sotto’s chief of staff noted that the senator did not lift the words himself, as that was their doing, and asked to not be crucified for this “oversight.”
Take their side over the RH bill
Villacorta also requested the blogger to take their side in the discussions on the RH bill and not “deflect the debate toward this issue of plagiarism. It is so out of sync in this great debate.”
“All the unborn wants very much the right to be born and need everybody’s help, including yours.”
The senator is a staunch opponent of the bill which mandates government to actively promote family planning, among others. The bill has reached the period of amendments in the Senate, but critics led by the Catholic Church have vowed to stop it from becoming into law.
As majority floor leader, Sotto is a key power player in the upper chamber. A counterpart bill in the House is also being debated. President Benigno Aquino III has expressed support for the bill but has so far not wielded his tremendous powers to swiftly pass it.
The senator’s chief of staff asked Pope to forgive “our single trespass,” and to join them “on the side of life and truth.”
“We had no malice, we thought you would be happy about it. There was no injury. Hope this makes you feel better.”
Blog used without permission
After a few minutes, Sarah Pope replied to Villacorta in her blog’s comments section.
“I don’t like the fact that my blog was used without my permission against the education of the women of the Philippines and their reproductive rights. That is the issue and it was indeed plagiarism.”
The blogger also refused to allow Sotto’s staff to take all the blame.
“If his staff did it, he [Sotto] condoned it. He is responsible for your actions. My blog was quoted, not Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. I put her work in my own words and you copied my words.”
On Thursday morning, in an interview on Headstart on ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel, Sotto said he did not plagiarize in his “turno en contra” speech against the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.
“Itong blogger na sinasabi nila, eh pareho kami ng pinagkunan eh. Ang pinagkunan namin si Natasha Campbell-McBride. And in my speeches, even in my first speech and my second speech, I’ve always said, every now and then sinisingit ko, hindi po ako nagdudunong-dunungan ha. Hindi po galing sa akin ito.” (This blogger they’re mentioning, we got it from the same source. Our source is Natasha Campbell-McBride. And I’ve always said, I’m not pretending to be wise. This does not come from me.)
“Bakit ko naman iko-quote ang blogger? Blogger lang iyon. Ang kino-quote ko si Natasha Campbell-McBride.” (Why should I quote a blogger? She’s just a blogger. I’m quoting Natasha Campbell-McBride.)
He was referring to the doctor he cited as part of what he called expert opinion and scientific studies showing the damaging effect of contraceptives to children born to mothers who used contraception. (Read parts of Sotto’s speech here and compare with Pope’s blog.)
PH women must have a choice
Pope also made clear that “a woman needs to know that the pill can indeed harm her, but this is NO REASON to take away this choice from her in the first place.”
“I do not agree with Senator Sotto’s position on this issue and he twisted the message of my blog to suit his own purposes against the women of the Philippines.”
And she concluded: “No, your lame comment does not make me feel any better.”
In a later comment, the blogger apologized to the women of the Philippines for the misuse of the contents of her blog.
“I am sorry my blog was used and twisted against you. You deserve the choice to use the pill if you want or need to based on your particular circumstances.”
Pope stressed: “While I want you to know that this choice has health consequences, I in no way would ever condone taking this choice away from you!” – Rappler.com
For more on RH bill and the Senate, read: