The whipping boy

In our rush to vilify Tito Sotto for pretty much everything nowadays, we are forgetting that, indeed, there are a few factors going in his favor.

One, he is indeed protected by the Constitution. He gave his half-baked arguments against the reproductive health bill - and, controversially, quoted Robert Kennedy without attribution - in the auspices of the Senate, where parliamentary immunity abounds. Legislators cannot be held against what they say within the session hall, especially if it's within a privileged speech. That's pretty much why senators use this very thing to criticize their sworn enemies - Ping Lacson against Gloria Arroyo, Miriam Santiago against whichever member of the Puno family earned her ire, and as we all know, Tito Sotto against us professional manipulators.

Two, as Juan Ponce Enrile pointed out, it would be difficult to punish Sotto for his alleged plagiarism. The progress of a complaint filed to the Senate ethics committee - signed by university professors and bloggers, with the welcome support of RFK's daughter Kerry - depends on whether senators will support it. It is, like everything else, a numbers game. With elections drawing near, our elected officials are thinking of keeping their political chances alive, more than doing what we citizens think is right. And besides, if the complaint gains ground and Sotto is deemed to have done wrong, they'll only give him a slap in the wrist and move on.

Three, plagiarism is a gray area. What to us is a genuinely original thought can be a blatantly copied (and unattributed) passage to someone else. Proving that plagiarism did happen is both easy and hard. Is there an intent to claim someone else's thought as your own? It's as hard as balancing on a pole six inches wide. It's easy to see how Sotto can apologize to the Kennedys, with conviction, for any inconvenience caused, while insisting, genuinely, sincerely, that he only copied the passage without intending to upset anyone.

Our best defense against that, however, is to do our homework. Collate your sources, paraphrase, quote, and most importantly, attribute. Anybody who's entered college - perhaps high school, even - know this as a divine rule whenever you're doing a report, a research paper, a position, anything. Back up whatever you say with the right facts, and we'll leave, in most cases, with a clear conscience.

Tito Sotto obviously doesn't have that, and I'm not saying this to vilify him further - it's obvious in his responses to the criticism against him. His critics, he claims, are just people behind keyboards who are far too preoccupied bashing him than giving away money on television, which, he says, is the best way of helping the less fortunate. His superior arguments have the pro-RH Bill lobby gasping for air, and therefore, they have resorted to ruining his reputation - in this case, going as far as faking a letter from the daughter of a prominent American politician to get their way.

His paranoid, farcical arguments are making a mockery of the long-time laughingstock that is Philippine government. No wonder he's become the whipping boy of pretty much everyone who disagrees with him - he's come to personify the worst that Philippine politics, or at least most of it, has to offer: an excessive reliance on flash, a sword ready to plunge on anyone who gets in the way, a disarming lack of substance, and an unhealthy hold on... something, whatever that is.

True, he will come out unscathed once this plagiarism storm passes. He will come out unscathed legally: he cannot be kicked out of the Senate for what he did, and he certainly wouldn't resign. But plagiarism is not a legal issue. It's a moral one. It's knowingly taking someone else's thoughts as his own, even if it came from a quote sent by a friend from a text message. It's insisting you did nothing wrong when the rightful owner comes complaining. It's attacking anyone who calls you out for the mistakes you've done, whether by accident or by design.

It's like when you stick out your leg to trip someone so your team would win a game of agawan-base. You may insist there's technically nothing wrong with it, but everybody will call you out for not playing fair. The more you stand your ground, the more everybody refuses to play with you. And all they wanted was an apology, and a promise from you, that you will never do it again.

And your responses...

Napakadali naman mag-abot ng pera lalo pag di mo naman pera yung inaabot mo sa ibang tao. I am willing to bet na hindi siya maglalabas ng sampung milyon every month para lang ipamigay sa Eat Bulaga kaya wag naman siyang magmagaling.

Plus, pwede bang wag na siyang magmagaling sa kung ano at kung ano ang hindi plagiarism kasi (mukha namang) di niya pinagaralan yan (diba, yan sabi niya sa mga professors sa AdMU at DLSU re: RH Bill?).

Blogger Aleigna Lin11/14/2012     

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