Senator Sotto and me

The lachrymose Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III turned bellicose after a week of relentless beatings by the plagiarism police. He had enough of it and he was not going to take it sitting down anymore. So he stood up and delivered a privilege speech.

He absolved himself of plagiarism and questioned his critics’ motives, defended Eat Bulaga and recited a poem by Joey de Leon the poet laureate of the Philippine Star and the Joey in the Tito, Vic, and Joey comedy team, and he moved that one out of several paragraphs that he mindlessly copied word for word from five blogs and one briefing paper be stricken off the Senate journal.

After his speech, Sen. Sotto joined Senate President Enrile in proposing a law that will target blogs and social media. Sotto felt he was a victim of cyber-bullying.

“Ako yata ang kauna-unahang senador ng Pilipinas na naging biktima ng cyber-bullying.” (I may be the very first Philippine senator who became a victim of cyber-bullying).

Well, Sotto is different. Or maybe I’m the one who’s different. He has a lot of fans, I don’t. He disappointed a lot of admirers when he ran on Gloria Arroyo’s senatorial slate in 2007 but they got over it and sent him back to the Senate in 2010. I don’t have any admirers to disappoint. People laugh at his jokes. I’m laughed at. He’s a multi-millionaire. I’m a thousandaire. He can grow facial hair, I can’t. He plagiarizes, I don’t. And if ever I inadvertently plagiarize, I will apologize and make amends. He won’t.

This is as far as he will go:

“Mr. President, with the permission of this body, I move that the paragraph containing reference with the study of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride which can be found in Journal No. 8 page 162 dated August 13, 2012 be stricken off the record in order to lay this matter to rest.”

An apology would have laid the matter to rest; striking it off the Journal of the Senate as if it never happened will not. Sotto could have explained that he could not access the book of Natasha Campbell-McBride so he looked for references to McBride’s work and found it in a blog called “Sarah the healthy economist.” Consequently, he copied and pasted the words of Sarah believing that they were direct quotes from McBride. Honest mistake. Sotto would have been forgiven for it. Hugs and kisses all around.

And Sotto would only have to make up excuses for the remaining four bloggers and one briefing paper that he also plagiarized. Hey, five counts of plagiarism are better than six, right?

But excuse me, Senator, I shouldn’t be calling them counts because counts refer to criminal offenses, as in six counts of theft. You did not commit any crime according to the law books you consulted . And Atty. Louie Andrew C. Calvario from the Office of the Director General of the Intellectual Property Office, also said you did not commit any crime.

So, okay, plagiarism is not a criminal offense in this country. That’s settled. Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III is not a criminal. That’s settled too. We can lay the legal issue to rest.

The only issue remaining, at least for those who have not liberated themselves from the tyranny of delicadeza, is the shamelessness in the commission of a shameful act, the sin vergüenza-ness of plagiarism and the brazen rationalization that followed. Sotto is obviously not bothered by that at all. Shamelessness liberates. Sotto is a free man. I’m still a slave. That’s the last difference I can think of. For now.

 

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).

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