Lawyer defends Sotto before Senate

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(UPDATED) Veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal defends Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, who faces an ethics complaint for alleged plagiarism

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Veteran election lawyer Romulo Macalintal on Wednesday, November 14, asked the Senate to dismiss an ethical complaint filed against Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III.

In a letter to Sen Alan Peter Cayetano, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges, Macalintal said the complaint has “absolutely no basis.”

A group of professors, bloggers, and academics filed an ethics complaint against Sotto on Tuesday, November 13, for allegedly plagiarizing in 9 instances from August to September during debates on the Reproduction Health (RH) bill. Sotto, for his part, denied accusations of plagiarism, particularly concerning the work of former US Sen Robert F Kennedy.

Kennedy’s daughter Kerry took exception to how Sotto used the late senator’s quotes in rejecting the Reproductive Health bill. Her letter was among the evidence submitted by the complainants against Sotto.

“In my letter to the Senate ethics committee, I told them the Senate has more important things to do,” Macalintal told reporters in Filipino.

The lawyer said Sotto “does not claim ownership” of the statements he made in his previous speeches, and that the complaint against him was simply an emotional outburst on the part of the complainants.

In his letter, Macalintal said: “Can the contents of the privilege speeches of Senator Sotto, recited before the Philippine Senate, while said body is in session, be subject to question? Is this issue so important that it deserves the effort and time of our Honorable Senators, and, more importantly, the use of precious taxpayers’ money?”

Macalintal said no to these questions, claiming that Sotto is protected by constitutional provisions on parliamentary immunity. (Watch the video below on the ethics complaint against Sotto.)

Kennedy would have been proud

“In the case of Senator Sotto, there is nothing in his speeches tending to show that he claimed ‘authorship’ of the alleged plagiarized items. As a matter of fact, Senator Sotto admitted the ‘main source’ of his speeches and was quoted in news articles stating: ‘I never said they are mine. I never said I own them.'”

Macalintal said: “Thus I honestly believe that if only Sen Robert Kennedy Sr was alive, he would be more than appreciative of the fact that his words are still very much being relived and celebrated by lawmakers from other nations. Knowing the human rights advocate that he is, Senator Robert Kennedy would be very glad that his works are being used in fighting for the most important right – the right to life.”

Sotto on Tuesday apologized to the Kennedy family after a complaint from the late senator’s daughter, Kerry. But the actor-turned-politician stressed that he did not commit plagiarism. 

“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 explained.

Read the full text of the complaint against Sotto below.

Full Text: Ethics Complaint vs Sen Vicente Sotto III–

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