Sotto on apology call: Huh, for what?

FOR WHAT? Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III does not see a need to apologize to Kerry Kennedy. Photo by Ayee Macaraig

FOR WHAT? Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III does not see a need to apologize to Kerry Kennedy.

Photo by Ayee Macaraig

MANILA, Philippines – Apologize? For what?

This is how Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III responded to a letter by the daughter of the late US Senator Robert F Kennedy, which Rappler published on Saturday, November 10, urging him to apologize. Kerry Kennedy said Sotto must say sorry for the “unauthorized, unethical theft” of her father’s speech.

In an interview with reporters on Monday, November 12, Sotto refused to comment, saying he has not received any official communication on the issue.

Asked if he will make a public apology, Sotto said, “Huh, for what?” 

Told about Kennedy’s letter, the senator said, “That’s not true.”

At least 30 academics from the Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines and De La Salle University will sign the complaint against Sotto. It will be filed on Tuesday, November 13. They say they want him sanctioned for plagiarizing 9 authors, and refusing to apologize when his attention was called.

The ethics complaint against Sotto will be under the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges headed by Sen Alan Peter Cayetano.

Cayetano said his committee will meet next week to finalize the rules in handling the Sotto case and other cases filed earlier. He said he cannot say how long the case will take, considering that there are other pending cases.

Cayetano, though, assured the public of fairness as the Senate handles a case against one of its own.

“In any collegial body, that’s the balance, the balance that you’re not above the law and you cannot be arrogant with power but the balance also that you need a certain degree of statesmanship and cooperation to be able to pass the laws and be able to conduct business as a legislative body.”

But Sotto branded as a “rehash” renewed allegations of plagiarism against him.

Bakit ako? Wala iyan eh. Ano iyan eh, rehash. ‘Diba pinag-usapan na natin noong September iyan? Kayo naman oh, you’re being manipulated,” Sotto told reporters. (Why me? That’s nothing. That’s just a rehash. Didn’t we already discuss that in September? You’re being manipulated.)

Sotto cited his parliamentary immunity in responding to the plagiarism issue.

Naku. Whoever wants to question a senator of the Republic should read the Constitution first, the Philippine Constitution, Art 6, Sec 11 bago ka magsalita (before you speak).”

He added, “Ako pa magiging talking head nila para magkaroon sila ng news, excuse me ha? Pag walang official, don’t say a word. Anong rereactan mo, baka imbento lang iyan ng mga aficionado na professional manipulator sa Internet.” (They will even use me as a talking head so they will attract news, excuse me. If there is nothing official, don’t say a word. What will I react on, that may just be a fabrication of aficionados who are professional manipulators of the Internet.)

Enrile: I’ll translate Socrates, too!

Sotto literally went to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile as he defended himself from the allegations. While being interviewed, he saw his ally arrive on the Senate floor and told him about the criticism against him.

Sotto told Enrile, “May naco-complain daw sa akin sa speech ko. Tinagalog ko raw ang speech ni Kennedy.” (Someone is complaining against me. They say I translated Kennedy’s speech.)

Enrile replied in jest, “Mabuti nga tinagalog mo si Kennedy. Tatagalugin ko rin si Socrates!” (It’s a good thing you translated Kennedy. I will also translate Socrates!)

The Senate President turned serious as he addressed the reporters.

“We cannot be questioned for what we say inside this chamber anywhere, not because we are a special breed but because that is the immunity given by the sovereign people so we can speak on any subject under the sun,” Enrile said.

"Those people who do not understand it, they’re ignorant of Constitutional law, of the very Constitution they are supposed to espouse." 

Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago, a constitutional law expert and ethics committee member, however said that parliamentary immunity is not applicable to ethics cases. 

"No, this is a self, an auto-limitation imposed by senators on themselves," Santiago said in another interview. 

Enrile said the appropriate remedy is a civil suit for damages, not criminal action. He acknowledged that an ethics case can be filed but said the complainants must be ready.

“Well if they can get enough senators to vote in their favor, that’s the problem. We better change our system if we want to change the system but for as long as we have the system, it’s always a question of numbers and there is always a political content involved in everything we do here.”

Enrile added, “In the end, you can only kick a member of the House, of this House if you have I think three-fourths of the members or two-thirds voting in your favor or you can go to the people. You cannot discipline anybody here unless they commit a crime. If they commit a crime, you can charge them.” 

Asked if this meant the Senate is tolerating plagiarism, Enrile said, “We are not tolerating. That’s an individual responsibility.”

“In fact as an institution, we copy laws written by other countries.” - Rappler.com