Sotto: I'm the first Senator to be cyber-bullied

Jonathan de Santos
Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III took the floor on Wednesday to decry cyber-bullying against him over allegations that he plagiarized portions of his speech from a U.S.-based blogger.

Saying he was the first senator to ever be a victim of cyber-bullying, Sotto said criticism against him on the Internet and social media may have been part of the pro-Reproductive Health bill lobby "especially
since they have millions in funds."

"If you can't kill the message, kill the messenger seems to be what my detractors are saying," Sotto said in Filipino.

The criticism against Sotto came after he was accused of copying portions of his speech against the RH bill from The Healthy Home Economist blog. Sotto vehemently denied doing this, even dismissing the blog's author Sarah Pope as "just a blogger."

His chief-of-staff, lawyer Hector Villacorta, eventually admitted to copying from Pope but maintained there
was nothing wrong with that. He also later said copying for speeches and for proposed laws is a common practice at the Senate of the Philippines.

Quoting from dictionaries, including Black's Law Dictionary, Sotto said plagiarism is the "deliberate and knowing presentation of another person's original ideas or creative expressions as one's own" and the "the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own."

"Wala po akong inangkin sapagka't ako po ay di doktor. Ang blanket disclaimer ay pag-amin na ang research materials na nilalaman ng aking talumpati ay batay sa mga pag-aaral ng mga iginagalang na eksperto," he said.

He did not admit to plagiarism but he said that in any case, plagiarism is not a crime in the Philippines. Sotto also quoted lawyer Louie Andre Calvario from the Intellectual Property Office as saying what he allegedly did was not an act of copyright infringement "since the defense of statutory fair use (Sec. 184.1 IP Code) and fair use (Sec. 185, IP Code) can be invoked."

He then moved to have the portion of his speech referring to a study by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, which Pope said was taken from her blog, "be stricken off the record in order to lay this matter to rest."

Netizens hit back

Netizens did not agree to lay the matter to rest, however, with many protesting on Twitter using the hashtag #Sotto.

"So kung hindi punishable by law, puwede mo nang gawin kahit mali?," user Kitchie asked.

Blogger and comedian Marcelle Fabie was also disappointed with Sotto's non-apology. "All we're asking is you apologize for making a mistake. Y'know, like the way decent people do when they commit mistakes," he said.

RH bill advocate Beth Angsioco, meanwhile, said that "now that #Sotto's negatively trending, prepare to be blamed again netizens! Hahaha!"

Meanwhile, an online petition that lists as a sponsor, asking the Senate "to sanction Senator Vicente Sotto III for plagiarizing works of several bloggers on his turno en contra speech delivered Aug 13 and 15," has continued to gather signatures. As of this post, the petition, which calls on the Senate ethics committee to investigate "before the integrity of the entire body crumbles," has 1,064 signatures.