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With freedom comes responsibility

/ 10:32 PM August 24, 2012

I write to raise my concern about the news article titled “Oh no, another case of plagiarism” (Inquirer, 8/21/12), extensively quoting from a blog that raised plagiarism charges against me.

I find it very unprofessional that Inquirer reporter Cathy Yamsuan did not bother to present my side. My office sent her an e-mail and text. Plus I personally tweeted about this, which can be viewed online by anyone, anywhere. My staff also had the tweets compiled and posted on my official website. But what the article simply said was, “The Philippine Daily Inquirer attempted to get a comment from Cayetano, but her staff said the senator was out of the country.”

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As a writer, a blogger and senator, I take this issue very seriously. I respect every writer’s intellectual property, and it saddens me that the Inquirer did not see fit to report on this.

I will always fight for freedom of the press, but with freedom comes responsibility. Yamsuan could have researched my speech and website first, and verified with the blogger regarding his/her sources.

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Simple research and verification would have cleared this issue. People bombard the Inquirer with tweets, online feedback, and e-mail messages every day. At this day and age, anyone can post any malicious accusation online against anyone and remain anonymous. Is it now the policy of the Inquirer to pick up unverified accusations from the Internet and turn these into front-page news material? The story was even accompanied by a caricature of the Inquirer mascot, a disgusted-looking carabao, saying, “Weh! Nangongopya rin pala!” The article and the caricature show how this very important issue was diminished into a front-page punch line and joke instead of being used as an opportunity to inform and educate the public.

It takes decades and a lifetime to build one’s reputation, but it could take just one front-page story to sully that. There is no conflict between reporting the news, being critical and being responsible.

—SEN. PIA S. CAYETANO

Even before I scoured the Internet for the blog against Senator Cayetano, I alerted her media officer, Mike Ac-ac, about the possible story. This was early afternoon Monday (Aug. 20). Ac-ac sent me a text later that afternoon, saying he would e-mail me the senator’s tweets about the accusations. Due to deadline constraints, I had to file the story where I said the senator was out of the country. That detail came from her media officer who told at least one other reporter aside from me. At that time, I still had not received Ac-ac’s e-mail (which came only later). I assure the senator there was no malice involved when I wrote the story.

I note that the senator is not challenging the accuracy of the charges made by the Templars. And even her tweets contained no categorical denial.

A colleague told me that the first version of one of the speeches contained no footnotes acknowledging the source, but these appeared after the Templars pointed out the plagiarized parts.

—CATHY C. YAMSUAN,

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reporter, Inquirer

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TAGS: blogs, internet, letters, plagiarism, press freedom, Responsibility, sen. Pia cayetano, social media, Twitter
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