Miriam defends Sotto: Plagiarism not a mortal sin in Senate
MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and his staff did not read a book by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD, whose arguments were allegedly used by the senator in his speech against the Reproductive Health Bill.
Lawyer Hector Villacorta, Sotto’s chief of staff, said researchers in Sotto’s office tried to download a copy of McBride’s book but failed. Instead, the researchers lifted text allegedly from McBride’s book that was in the blog of American blogger Sarah Pope.
"Hindi naman alam ni Senator na staff ko ang nagkamali. Researchers tried clicking the book but ayaw mag download. Kaya ang pinakamaganda, refer to blog dahil baka accurate naman,” Villacorta said.
He added that the senator need not apologize for a mistake done by his researchers.
Sotto has come under fire for allegedly plagiarizing portions of his anti-RH Bill speech from Pope’s blog. In his speech, Sotto repeated word-for-word a passage in Pope's blog, which read: "Not well known is the fact that use of the Pill depletes zinc in the body. Zinc is called the 'intelligence mineral' as it is intimately involved in mental development."
The senator has denied committing plagiarism, saying he was getting his arguments directly from McBride as quoted in the US blog.
Pope, in turn, has accused Sotto of being a “lying thief” for denying that he plagiarized 8 sentences from her blog. She said: "My blog was quoted, not Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. I put her work in my own words and you copied my words."
Sotto has also been accused of lifting from various sources in his second speech, without attribution.
On Wednesday, Sotto said he already gave a “blanket disclosure” that his “turno en contra” speech is not 100% his.
He said he already disclosed that his speech is derived from various research material from the Internet. He said he never claimed ownership of material lifted from Pope’s blog, which also came from another source.
"I have never claimed ownership for any of those ... and that's an important ingredient of plagiarism... claiming it as your own. Ang binasa ko ay compiled reports, which probably included her material,” he said.
Sotto said critics are magnifying the plagiarism issue to discredit him instead of directly answering his arguments against the RH bill.
‘Kopyahan po talaga’
For his part, Villacorta said he sees nothing wrong with lawmakers copying the text of bills that were not passed in previous Congresses.
"Kopyahan po to talaga, eh. Pag natapos ang isang Congress, lahat ng bill na hindi naipasa, kopyahan. Bakit mo iisipin ulit eh nandyan na? A bill not acted upon dies with a Congress. The new Congress senators will find out what can still be revived. Kopyahan po, pero hindi masamang kopyahan,” he said.
“The Bible reached us today because the monks copied from the Greeks. Lahat ho talaga nag uumpisa ng konting kopyahan. Edison copyrighted the cinematographic machine so all proceeds sa kanya pero if not copied, we would not have movies today.... Let all those who copied bills before, walang matitira sa Senate. Trabaho naming mga chief of staff to scout for bills na namatay tapos alam din naman by those who filed in previous Congress who request us to file it anew."
Villacorta earlier said blogs are considered public domain and that the government is exempted from the copyright rule.
He also said Sotto cannot be sued because he enjoys parliamentary immunity as a legislator.
Meanwhile, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago also came to Sotto’s defense over the plagiarism issue.
"Speechwriter must have overlooked/forgot to include the word 'allegedly'. But this is not the academe where plagiarism is a mortal sin. We should give leeway in politics, as long as later on the source is acknowledged,” she said.