Sotto finds ally in Enrile in plagiarism issue

Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom


This was how Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile described the bloggers, who have threatened to file an ethics complaint against Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto for allegedly committing plagiarism.

"We cannot be questioned for what we say inside this Chamber anywhere, not because we are a special breed but because that is the immunity given by the sovereign people so that we can speak on any subject under the sun," Enrile told reporters.

Related story: Three US bloggers set to file plagiarism complaint vs Sen. Sotto

"There's a major, national, sovereign policy. That's Constitutional law. I said that before not because of any arrogance of power: Those people who do not understand it, they're ignorant of Constitutional law, of the very Constitution that they are supposed to," he noted.

The senate president was referring to the Constitutional provision about the legislative department under Article VI Section 11.

It states that no member shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee thereof.

Enrile said filing an ethics complaint against Sotto may not go anywhere in the Senate, where an issue has to be decided based on number of votes.

"For as long as we have the system, it's always a question of numbers and there is always a political content involved in everything we do here," he explained.

Related story: Kennedy daughter confirms plagiarism complaint vs Sotto

"You cannot discipline anybody here unless they commit a crime. If you commit a crime, you can charge them.  They can file an ethics case (but) what ethical misconduct is there?" he added.

He also noted that Sotto can only be held liable for civil damages considering that committing plagiarism does not require criminal action.

However, the Senate president clarified the issue of plagiarism is about lawmaker's "individual responsibility" more than a rule against plagiarism in the legislative body.

"That's an individual responsibility. In fact, as an institution, we copy laws prepared by other countries," he added.

For his part, Sotto refused to comment on the strongly-worded letter from Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) against him over the weekend.

"I have not received official communication to that effect. Other than that, I don't want to be their talking head for them to make it to the news. Excuse me," Sotto said.

"Until there's an official word, I won't say anything. This can be invented by invented by aficionado (or) manipulators on the internet," he added.

He refused to issue a public apology though, noting that "there's nothing to apologize" for translating some parts of some blogs in his controversial privilege speech.

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In a letter dated November 9, Kennedy hit Sotto for "his unethical, unsanctioned theft" of her father's intellectual property and all those he plagiarized.

Last week, bloggers from the US, Sarah Pope, Janice Formichella, and Peter Engelman expressed intent to file a formal complaint against Sotto for using their posts in his speeches.

University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, and De La Salle University professors vowed to join the American bloggers in filing complaint against Sotto.