‘I’m sorry,’ Sotto tells Kennedy family

Ayee Macaraig
'If it upsets the Kennedy family, then I'm sorry,' Sotto says in response to complaints that he plagiarized a speech of Robert F Kennedy

'NOT PLAGIARISM.' Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto apologizes to the Kennedy family if his use of Robert Kennedy's speech upset them but maintained that he did not commit plagiarism. Screenshot from Senate livestream

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – “If it upsets the Kennedy family, then I’m sorry.”

In a privilege speech on Tuesday, November 13, Sen Vicente “Tito” Sotto III apologized to the Kennedys for a speech he earlier made using the quotes of the late US Sen Robert F Kennedy.

“Copying is the highest form of flattery, but if it upsets the Kennedy family then I’m sorry but that is not the intention we have when we used it,” Sotto said. 

He insisted however that he did not commit plagiarism.

Sotto has been hounded anew by plagiarism accusations following a letter signed by Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Kennedy, and president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. In the letter, Kerry Kennedy accused Sen Sotto of “flagrantly” and “deceptively” plagiarizing a 1966 Day of Affirmation speech of her father.

In his speech, Sotto said he got the “inspirational line” from a text message sent by a Christian leader. He said he did not know that the line was Kennedy’s and he only used it in his speech because he found it fitting in his message against the Reproductive Health (RH) bill. 

Sabi nila kay Kennedy ang linya na iyon kaya ‘di ko alam kaagad iyon. Kung sa tingin nila ay kinopya at tingin ng Kennedy family, kinopya ko, pwede sapagkat kinopya ko nga sa text iyon. But Mr President copying or imitation is the highest form of flattery, but it if upsets the Kennedy family then I’m sorry. But that is not the intention that we had when we used it.”

(They say the line is Kennedy’s but I did not know that at the outset. If they think I copied it and the Kennedys think I copied it,  that’s possible because I did copy it from the text.)

Reporters sought to interview Sotto on the ethics case but he told them to just wait for his privilege speech. 

‘I did not plagiarize’ 

Kerry Kennedy’s letter was among those presented by bloggers and academics in an ethics complaint they filed on Tuesday with the Senate against Sotto.

Sotto stressed though that he had repeatedly said during his anti-RH bill speeches that his words were not his own and he got it from experts. 

Ang plagiarism ay to steal or pass off ideas or words of another as one’s own without crediting the source. Mr President, wala ho akong inangkin,” Sotto said. (I did not claim the quotes to be my own.)

Kung sasabihin lang sa akin, nangopya, mag-apologize ka, ay talagang madali iyon eh. Talagang kinopya eh. Pero hindi ko plinagiarize. Iba iyon. Maliwanag yun.” (But I did not commit plagiarism. That’s clear.) He added: “When I got that line, I translated and delivered in Filipino because I found it fit in what I was fighting for so I didn’t claim it.”

Sotto also said the academe and the legislature have different standards on plagiarism. 

“Iba po ang pananaw sa academe. Sa academe kasi ang pangongopya bawal at kung anu-ano ang bawal. Pero dito ho sa Senado, hindi po iyon, ibang usapan po iyon pero wag na iyon.” (The academe has a different view. In the academe, copying is prohibited, they prohibit all sorts of things. But here in the Senate, it’s not. It’s another discussion.) 

Misinformation, obfuscation 

Sotto said his critics were resorting to “persecution” and “obfuscation” by filing the complaint. He said the issue was actually the RH bill. 

“Imbis na sagutin ang 16 na puntos na niraise ko nung 3 turno en contra ko, ang binalik sa akin ay plagiarism.” (Instead of addressing the 16 points I raised in my turno en contra speeches, what they are throwing at me is plagiarism.) 

The senator also questioned the supposed involvement of an Akbayan representative in the ethics complaint. He said the media advisory sent to reporters came from the office of an Akbayan congressman. Walden Bello is the only male representative of Akbayan. 

“Nagtataka ako, gusto kong tanungin ang Senate President, ano ba ang koneksyon ng congressman bakit makikialam sa pagfafile ng ethics committee sa isang senador?” (I am wondering what is the connection of a congressman, why he will meddle with the filing of an ethics complaint against the senator.) 

Below is the full transcript of Sotto’s speech: 

This morning, bloggers, academics filed an ethics complaint against this representation and are asking me to apologize for plagiarism. August 13 pa ang unang turno en contra speech ng inyong lingkod Mr President, sumunod ang 2 or 3 weeks thereafter, yung 2nd turno en contra, 3rd turno en contra but they decided to file it now pero ilang ulit ko na pong nabanggit dati ito. Kailangang ulitin ko pa rin sa ngayon. Mukhang it’s falling into deaf ears.

Ganoon po ang tingin ko kasi I will set aside the issue of Section 6 of the Constitution. Itabi natin ang isyu ng parliamentary immunity although ang pinag-uusapan nga, sabi nga nila, pinag-uusapan namin nina Senate President kanina in his advice, ang Congress, kaya may parliamentary immunity ng kahit na anong sabihin mo sa Kongreso ay para may elbow room ka dahil you are making laws, hindi ka pwedeng i-confine.

Kahit nga libelous o kahit anong pwedeng sabihin mo rito, you cannot be held liable in any place dahil yun ang binibigay na elbow room sa legislative. Iba po ang pananaw sa academe. Sa academe kasi ang pangongopya bawal at kung anu-ano ang bawal. Pero dito ho sa Senado, hindi po iyon, ibang usapan po iyon pero ‘wag na iyon. Isantabi na natin ang usapan ng Section 6.

Doon ko ho dadalhin sa issue ng ibinibintang na plagiarism. Ang tingin ko po dito Mr President, what seems to be a simple case of probable misinformation, has turned out to be misinterpretation and now has become a case of persecution.

Di ko po maintindihan ang nangyayari kasi parang obfuscation nga ang dating sa akin. Imbis na sagutin ang 16 na puntos na niraise ko nung 3 turno en contra ko, ang binalik sa akin ay plagiarism.

Maliwanag ho doon sa 3 turno en contra speeches ko, ilang ulit ko pong sinabi and the journal will bear me out, wala po akong sinabi doon na akin iyon. Maliwanag na kontra pa nga ang ginamit ko. Sinabi ko na lahat ng sinabi ko tungkol sa mediko, mga agham at kung saan-saan ay hindi galing sa akin, ang plagiarism ay to steal or to pass off the ideas or words of another as one’s own, without crediting the source.

Mr President wala ho akong inangkin eh. As a matter of fact, kabilan ng inangkin ang ginawa ko. So papaano ho ako mag-aapologize ng plagiarism eh wala ho akong plinagiarize. Sinabi ko hong hindi akin. Pinagpi-plead guilty ako sa murder eh dapat ang charge physical injuries.

Kung sasabihin lang sa akin, nangopya, mag-apologize ka, ay talagang madali iyon eh. Talagang kinopya eh pero hindi plinagiarize. Iba yun, maliwanag iyon. Wala ho akong ninakaw.

I’m sure na kopya ng draft ko ang unang kumalat sa kanila, ang draft na speech kasi hindi kumpleto iyon. Wala doon ang mga ibang attribution o counter-attribution na sinasabi ko pero sa journal ng Senado, nandoon lahat iyan. The records of the Senate will speak for me.

Ngayon, may bago pa. In the case of the so-called Kennedy speech. It appears Mr President that the Kennedy family has been misinformed to get them to say something against me.

Ang pinadala yata na report doon ay ‘yun lang part na Tinagalog ang lift from the inspirational line of Robert Kennedy at ang pinaalam nila doon according to doon sa kausap namin sa foundation nila, ang pinarating doon ay minangle ko. Hindi po totoo iyon. Let me explain the truth.

A Christian leader sent me through a text a reminder. It was a nice reminder used to inspire people. He even said that religious groups or leaders use that as an inspirational line. I did not even know whose it was except that it came from the True Love Waits Foundation who espouses chastity and teaches all over the country. He’s an American.

When he gave me that line, I translated and delivered the message in Filipino because we found it a finding cap to what I was fighting for so Mr President I did not steal it or claim that it was mine. The worst thing you can say is I copied it from the text of a friend. I didn’t know who it came from but it was a nice inspirational line.

Sabi nila kay Kennedy ang linya na iyon kaya di ko alam kaagad iyon. Kung sa tingin nila ay kinopya at tingin ng Kennedy family, kinopya ko. Pwede sapagkat kinopya ko nga sa text iyon. But Mr President copying or imitation is the highest form of flattery but if it upsets the Kennedy family then I’m sorry but that is not the intention that we have when we used it.

Ito po isa sa mga natabunan noong mga oras na iyon at uulitin ko po sa ating mga kababayan. Ipapaalala ko lang po ang sinabi ko sa huling speech na pilit nilang tabunan ng issue ng plagiarism. Nagugulat ako kasi itong mga taong ito ay mga aral.

Di ko alam saan nanggagaling except I know halos lahat pala ay RH advocates. Nagtataka rin ako, tinanong ko si Senate President kung bakit yung media advisory nitong mga RH advocates na ito ay nanggaling sa opisina ng isang congressman, sa opisina ng Akbayan, partylist congressman. Nagtataka ako, gusto kong tanungin ang Senate President, ano ba ang koneksyon ng congressman bakit makikialam sa pagfafile ng ethics committee sa isang senador?

Ngayon, ako po, mababa lang po ang pinag-aralan ko kumpara sa pinag-aralan nila pero ako po di marunong manira at di ako nanghuhusga ng kapwa. Kung ginamit sana nila ang kanilang katalinuhan sa pagbibigay ng linaw tungkol sa RH bill, lalo na ang 16 arguments ko, mas makakatulong pa ito sa mga kababayan natin para maunawaan ito.

Kaya sa mga mahal kong kababayan at sa mga kasama natin sa Senado, ako po matagal niyo nang kakilala. Kilala niyo pinanggalingan ko, pamilya ko, asawa ko, mga anak, mga kapatid, kilala  niyo lahat. Kilala niyo ang pinagdaananan ko, mga ginawa ko, mga natulungan ko. Itong mga naninira sa akin at nag-iimbento ng mga multo ay di natin kilala kaya di tayo pwedeng bastang maniwala sa kanila.

When the right time comes and when I have gathered enough evidence, I will expose the people behind this na nagmamanipula nito. Pati mga kababayan natin sa academe, namamanipula nila para magamit nila ditto.

Mr President you can call me names, you can mock me, you can accuse me of anything under the sun but I will not change my position and I will always be against the distribution of condoms, IUDs, promoting immorality to the young people. I will always be against abortion.

I will always remain steadfast and will stand firm in my position as long as I live.  Rappler.com

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