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MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) University of the Philippines President Alfredo Pascual is outraged by the act of plagiary committed by graduate student Mark Joseph Solis who won a photo contest under fraudulent terms.
In a statement on Wednesday, September 25, Pascual expressed disappointment over the plagiarism and promised that the University is taking the case seriously.
“While some of his acts may have been performed outside academic work, these blemish the image of UP as an academic institution which holds dearly the values of honor and excellence,” Pascual said.
Pascual ordered the creation of a fact-finding committee to investigate Solis, who is currently taking up a masters degree at the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG).
According to NCPAG Dean Fe Mendoza, Solis may be held liable under the university’s student code, and therefore, warrants legal action on the part of the College.
Meanwhile, Pascual called on the UP community to allow the university processes to take its course.
“We shall follow due process, even as we remain just and humane,” he added.
On Sunday, September 22, Solis admitted and apologized for stealing the photo of Gregory John Smith, founder of a Brazilian NGO Children at Risk.
Some netizens have argued that Solis may not be held liable under the University’s rules since the act of plagiarism was committed in a non-academic setting.
In early September of 2012, Solis entered the same “Neptune, King of the Sea” photo in the Mulat Maninipat photojournalism contest organized by the Union of Journalists of the Philippines – UP Diliman. He did not win the competition.
Solis at that time was a 4th year political science undergraduate student. This latest reported case of plagiarism may weigh heavily on the fact-finding committee’s investigation as the contest was organized by a UP student organization.
Mark Joseph Solis did not only plagiarize photos. He may have fudged the record of his other achievements.
Netizens, like Jesus Falcis of the UP Debate Society, have begun to look into his awards as stated on his LikedIn page.
According to a Facebook post from Philippine Debate Union president Candice Chung, he participated under Kyushu University but did not reach the finals.
A former student debater who knew Solis but declined to be named said Solis was not even present in the competition.
“He wasn’t even there. (The) Philippine debate contingent in that international tourney took a picture together with the PH flag,” the debater said.
Solis also said he was a grand finalist in the 2010 Ateneo Intervarsity Debate but a blog announcing the winners does not have his name listed.
On Monday, September 23, the Chilean Embassy revoked the prize given to Solis and said it is “considering taking legal action against” him.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) is also conducting its own investigation of Solis after it was reported that he entered, and won, a 2011 photo competition organized by the government agency.
“If proven guilty, OPAPP will not hesitate to exercise legal options to rectify the wrong doing by Solis,” said OPAPP’s chief lawyer Atty Jomer Aquino.
In his letter of apology on Sunday, September 22 , Solis cited his “youth, lack of experience, and the inability to see the repercussions of (his) actions” as the main reason for plagiarizing Smith’s photo.
In an interview with GMA News on Tuesday, September 24, however, Solis cited financial reasons for entering the plagiarized photo.
“Hirap din sa buhay. Minsan gusto mo rin ng bagong gamit. Minsan kapos sa tuition. In fact, ngayon hindi pa ako nakakabayad sa tuition ko sa UP,” he told GMA.
(It’s hard getting around. Sometimes, I also want new things. Sometimes, we don’t have enough money to pay for my tuition fees. In fact, I haven’t paid my tuition fees in UP.)
On Sunday, Solis told Rappler via phone “I’m so sad that all my other achievements which are not related to photo contests are now going down the drain because of this issue.”
Rappler has repeatedly tried to reach Solis since Monday but was unable to contact him for a statement. -With reports from Raisa Serafica and Carol Ramoran/ Rappler.com