Whether we admit it or not, we are all guilty of plagiarism at some point in our life. Sometimes, we deliberately do it and we blame– especially the writers– writer’s block or a low self-esteem or an immediate deadline (Mihai, 2012). Sometimes, we do not know that we actually commit it for the mere fact that plagiarism is a tricky sneaky little thing– it doesn’t matter if you did not do it verbatim. Yes, at some point we were plagiarists and that is pardonable– no guarantees with your English teacher though– but everything changes, or magnified to say the more proper qualifier, when you are in a position of stature.
Two years ago, business tycoon Manny Pangilinan resigned as the Chairman of Ateneo’s Board of Trustees after admitting that parts of his convocation speech he delivered were copied from JK Rowling and Oprah Winfrey. On the other hand, an impeachment complaint was filed against Justice Mariano Castillo early this year for the alleged plagiarism act he did on a Supreme Court decision. I think this sends a firm point that we take plagiarism seriously. Then here we are now, Senator Tito Sotto admitted, by extension, that he plagiarized a work of a blogger for his turno en contra speech against the RH Bill.
The point is that, people in the higher position of powers should always safeguard their integrity. For a Senator in particular, he should be really careful in everything he says in public as he also carries the image of the Senate as a body, and the people who voted for him . This act of plagiarism raises a great question on the Senator’s credibility and by extension to the Senate’s integrity.
So what do we do now?
Aside from revering the apparent ignorance of the Senator, we can file an ethics complaint against Tito Sotto. (Senators are non-impeachables, so it is not a recourse). Sec. 97 of the Senate Rules provides that upon the recommendation of the Committee on Ethics and Privileges and the concurrence of the 2/3 of all the Members, the Senate can “punish any Member for disorderly behavior and… suspend or expel a Member.” I think this is a high time to make a point that the ordinary Filipino voter won’t allow any insult to their intelligence by having a Senator, or any public official in general, who is both arrogant and unapologetic at the same time.
Yes, we know plagiarism is not a criminal act. But then again, a question of integrity and credibility is a huge blow to anyone, more so to a public official. For me, a sincere apology from the Senator will be great but it is not necessary anymore. Tito Sotto should not get away with this; he has gotten away with his insulting statements towards the Filipina mothers. The only recourse he could do to salvage his credibility is to resign… and nothing less than that.