Media reporting on the plagiarism issue was incomplete and distorted, Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto cried at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel on Monday.
“I am not accusing media of inaccuracy,” Sotto said, “but the sound bytes were incomplete and so gave a distorted view of the controversy.”
“I am being accused of plagiarism, that I plagiarized a speech of former President John F. Kennedy and used his words as my own in my speech in the Senate against the RH (reproductive health) bill. I did not,” he said, adding:
“Plagiarism is when you use somebody else’s work and claim it as your own. I did not claim the Kennedy quotes as my own. On the contrary, I said the quotes—by Kennedy and by others—are not mine. I was just using them to aid my arguments against the RH bill.”
There is speculation that it’s the fault of Sotto’s ghostwriter. The speculation goes that the ghost, pressed for time as his deadline approached, was forced to use the Kennedy quotes—forgetting to use quotation marks—to finish the speech on time, and that Sotto himself did not know that at the time. But Sotto was man enough not to use the ghostwriter as a scapegoat and accept responsibility.
But according to Sotto, what happened was that his staff researchers had accumulated so much quotes and information on birth control that when his speech was being crafted, they did not know who said what.
“I made a general disclaimer,” he said in Filipino. “I said: ‘These are not my words but of others in the know on the subjects—birth control, contraceptives and abortion.’ Read my speech; the disclaimer is there. I never claimed the quotes as my own.”
So the sin is that you forgot to use quotation marks and give proper credits? a reporter asked.
Sotto replied: “As I said, the problem was that there was a welter of quotes that it was difficult to determine who said which quotes. So I made a general disclaimer: ‘I am not saying these. Others said them.’ I disclaimed authorship of the quotes in my speech.”
Why don’t you furnish reporters copies of your speech?
“I did, but the reporters disregarded the disclaimer,” the senator said. “You see, they got copies of my draft speech. But I made the disclaimer during my speech in the Senate.”
So why don’t you give them copies of the Senate Journal where your exact words are recorded?
“I also did that,” Sotto said. “But they paid no attention to it. They are doing it because of my opposition to the RH bill, and I know who are behind the black propaganda.”
And who are these?
“Big international corporations that are the biggest producers of contraceptives,” Sotto said. Then he ticked off the names of five corporations that are separately donating to family planning activities in the Philippines.
What Sotto was insinuating was that these pharmaceutical companies would profit immensely from the RH bill if it becomes law. The bill will authorize the Philippine government to purchase P4 billion worth of contraceptives from these corporations and distribute them free to Filipinos, male or female, who ask for them.
“All one has to do is go to a barangay and ask for a condom or a contraceptive, and the barangay is mandated by law to give them that for free,” he said. “Do you know that the proposed law also mandates the barangays to raise funds for the family planning program?”
Sotto emphasized that he is against, not family planning, but artificial birth control, which uses contraceptives, including abortion, to prevent conception.
Would he oppose a birth control pill that has been proven to prevent fertilization 100 percent and is taken by the man, not by the woman, before going to bed? Even the Church cannot oppose it.
“Is there such a thing?” Sotto asked. “What is it?”
A sleeping pill. Laughter.
“Then it would be the women who would complain,” he said, to more laughter.
In effect, Sotto is opposed to using billions of taxpayers’ money to abet sexuality without responsibility, money that can be used instead to help the poor, such as building homes for the homeless.
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The two other guests at the Kapihan were former Manila Councilor Greco Belgica and businessman Ricardo Penson, who are both running for senator in 2013. They head separate nationwide “contra” movements—Belgica “Contra Droga,” and Penson “Contra Dynasty.”
Belgica proposes a fixed 4-percent tax on individual income. “That will reduce the rate of tax per individual but government revenues will still increase because more people will pay honest taxes,” he said. “At present, income tax returns are so complicated that many people have trouble accomplishing them. More opt not to file tax returns at all because of that. Result: less tax income. But if the tax rate is low and simple, people will do their civic duty and pay taxes honestly.”
He has a point, but will the taxpayers behave as he predicted?
For his part, Penson wants the people to respect our Constitution, particularly the provision against political dynasties. Politicians want to be the people’s leaders, but as leaders, shouldn’t they set the example of respecting the Constitution? he said.
Penson lamented that the leaders of the two major political coalitions—President Aquino of the Liberal Party, and Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, and former President Joseph Estrada of the United Nationalist Alliance, or UNA—are the biggest violators of the Constitution. P-Noy has two relatives running for senator in the two tickets, and Binay, Enrile, and Estrada have children running for senator in the UNA ticket. Political dynasties are also alive, kicking, and growing in many provinces, towns and cities despite the constitutional ban.