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Complainants to Sotto: Too late to apologize

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – If Sen Vicente “Tito” Sotto III suddenly decides to change his “Huh? For what?” line and say sorry, it will be too late.

Thirty-seven members of the academe made this statement as they filed an ethics complaint against Sotto before the Senate Ethics Committee.

On the eve of the filing on Tuesday, November 13, Sotto doubted that such a complaint would be filed and refused to apologize for plagiarizing the works of online writers. Yet the group showed up Tuesday morning and formally asked the Senate to discipline Sotto.

“Well, we already filed. It’s there so it’s too late in that sense but given the attitude of Sen Sotto, we don’t expect him to apologize. He has to be compelled to apologize or censured by this body,” said Ateneo political science assistant professor Lisandro “Leloy” Claudio.   

Another complainant, Dr Sylvia Estrada Claudio of the UP Center for Women’s Studies said the issue is now beyond demanding an apology from Sotto.

“It’s already in the arena of public discussion. It’s not just for us alone to withdraw the complaint. So with regards to the question of the public apology, I think it’s too late,” Dr Claudio said.

In the complaint signed by 37 individuals, they asked the Senate to find Sotto guilty for violating Section 193 of the Intellectual Property Code, granting authors the right to be attributed and for the works not to be distorted. Complainants also said Sotto violated the rules of the Ethics Committee through “improper conduct which may reflect upon the Senate.”

The complaint details 9 instances of plagiarism Sotto committed in his speeches against the Reproductive Health bill from August to September.

The complainants said they are not asking for a specific sanction, just for the Senate to acknowledge that Sotto was wrong. 

“We trust the Ethics Committee to make the right choice,” said Filipino Freethinkers President Red Tani.

Sotto: So be it

In a text message to Senate reporters, Sotto said, "I welcome the ethics complaint against me so I can have the chance to explain my side. At the outset, what is apparent to me is that this brouhaha grew out of my strong consistent stand against the RH bill."

"And if such attacks against me are part of the consequence of my advocacy, then so be it." 

‘Numbers game argument scary’

Antonio Contreras, political science professor from the De La Salle University, said the arguments raised by Sotto and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on the plagiarism issue were alarming.

Enrile has said that the ethics complaint will boil down to a numbers game.

Nakakatakot kasi iyon kasi lumalabas ang pamantayan ng etika at tamang pag-uugali, bilangan na lang. Hindi ito isyu ng kampihan,” Contreras said. (That’s scary because it appears that our standards of ethics and good conduct are just a numbers game. This is not an issue of siding with your allies.)

Contreras added, “Kaming mga nasa unibersidad meron kaming role na ginagampanan sa lipunan na magturo at magpalinaw. Mas mataas siguro ang dapat iexpect sa mga senador.” (We in the university, we have a role to play in society to teach and clarify. We should set a higher standard for our senators.)

The professor also rejected Sotto and Enrile’s defense that the Majority Leader is protected by parliamentary immunity.

Di naman kami ignorante sa Saligang Batas. Kung idinemanda namin siya sa labas, hindi pwede iyon. Pero sa Ethics Committee, pwede siyang imbestigahan at parusahan ng kanyang peers,” said Conteraras. (We are not ignorant of the Constitution. If we are suing him outside of the Senate, that can’t be done. But here in the Ethics Committee, he can be investigated and punished by his peers.)

Dr Claudio said the group did not lobby to senators to support their complaint, and just trust that they will act on it fairly.

'DOUBLE STANDARD.' The academics said the Senate must show that there is no double standard for senators who commit plagiarism. Photo by Ayee Macaraig

'DOUBLE STANDARD.' The academics said the Senate must show that there is no double standard for senators who commit plagiarism.

Photo by Ayee Macaraig

No to ‘palusot’

Asked why it took them months before filing a complaint, Dr Claudio said the complainants “waited sufficiently” for Sotto to apologize.

’Di namin kaya maisip na ganun na lang, makakalusot na lang. Naisip namin na pagdating sa mga kapangyarihan ‘pag palusot nang palusot, ang arrogance, lack of accountability ay magiging kalakaran na lang.” (We cannot dare think that he will just escape this. We thought that when it comes to power, if we let excuses pass, arrogance and lack of accountability will be the rules of the game.)

Claudio’s son, Leloy, said it would have been a different matter had Sotto apologized following the release of a letter from Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late US Sen Robert F Kennedy. 

Sotto used Kennedy’s 1966 Day of Affirmation speech but said it was not plagiarism because he translated the passage. 

“He was still boasting and saying what do I have to apologize for. This is unacceptable,” said Leloy Claudio. – Rappler.com