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Plagiarism Cases Expose Political Elites’ Intellectual Bankruptcy

August 22, 2012

The allegations of plagiarism that hit a number of senators in the country undeniably expose the state of our political elites’ intellectual bankruptcy. We all know that plagiarism is theft. Anyone found guilty of stealing

Sen. Tito Sotto

passages from other people’s written or literary works can be, and should be, branded as intellectually dishonest. In the academe, plagiarism is a serious academic offense and any student found to be in violation of the school’s anti-dishonesty policies could face serious penalties.

The political elites who allegedly committed plagiarism were Senators Tito Sotto, Pia Cayetano, and Miriam Defensor Santiago.

As expected, these ‘plagiarist’-politicians were quick to come up with ‘effective’ alibis to defend themselves. Who would like to be branded as a ‘plagiarist’? Yet their alibis appear to be more disgusting and disturbing than the alleged acts of intellectual dishonesty they committed.

Consider the following statement made by Senator Sotto’s chief of staff, Hector Villacorta:

“Copying is a common practice. Why do you need to think of a brand-new measure when a good one that was not enacted already exists?”


In response to Villacorta’s comment, I posted the following rant on Facebook:

But bills are different from literary works, books, speeches, etc. We can copy bills and laws. In fact we copied, yet BASTARDIZED, the American Constitution. And this stupid bastardization is the reason why lots of pinoy morons are calling America’s alleged “presidentialism” its most dangerous export. But that’s another story. Also, those who proposed the Antitrust law simply copied the Sherman Act and other two laws, I believe, in the United States. Laws are strictly not copyrighted. Bills are not copyrighted. Sotto and his staff should learn when and how to keep their mouths shut!!!

Here’s an excerpt from an Inquirer article:

“Copying is a common practice. Why do you need to think of a brand-new measure when a good one that was not enacted already exists?” said Hector Villacorta, Sotto’s chief of staff.

At a breakfast forum, Villacorta said former senators would sometimes approach incumbent ones and ask them to refile the measures that failed to reach approval during the former senators’ term.

“They request new senators to refile [the bills] because (these are) already in the archives. Why reinvent the wheel? Re-filing is an accepted practice. It is called copying,” he said.

Word for word

There are also instances when a senator’s staff goes through bills not enacted by a previous Congress and copy these word for word.

“It’s really copying …. Why exert effort when these bills are just lying around?” Villacorta said.

He explained that this was an acceptable practice because “a bill not acted upon dies with an old Congress. So when the new Congress takes over, the staff of the new senators will find out that can still be revived.”


It seems that Villacorta doesn’t know that there are things that can be and cannot be copyrighted. Laws and bills are not copyrighted so he’s correct to say that copying them was “an acceptable practice”. But copying other people’s works, which are protected by copyright laws, is not merely immoral; it is also illegal. The issue is not whether bills and laws, which are generally not copyrightable, can be or cannot be copied. The real issue is whether his boss plagiarized the works or ideas of other private individuals.

What are the things that can be copyrighted? This source provides the examples of things that are protected under copyright laws:

  • literary works
  • Musical compositions
  • Dramatic works
  • Pantomimes and choreographic works
  • Pictorial, sculptural, and graphic works
  • Audio visual works
  • Sound recordings”
  • Architectural works

On the other hand, the same source provides examples of things that cannot be copyrighted:

Sen. Pia Cayetano

  • Ideas and facts
  • Works whose copyright term has expired
  • Works of  governments
  • Laws (statutes, cases, regulations, constitutions)
  • Things authors have dedicated to the public domain

Villacorta should be one of the first to know that bills and works of governments, including laws, statutes, court cases, regulations, treaties, and constitutions, cannot be copyrighted. Instead of defending his boss, Villacorta actually made things even worse. The lines of defense or arguments he made to defend his boss are utterly illogical. Of course we all know that bills and laws can simply be copied, but that won’t save anyone from allegations of plagiarism.

Again from the article:

Even Villacorta himself was whipped on the Web for saying that Philippine laws do not have provisions that penalize anyone who freely lifts information from the Internet.

Still, Villacorta said it was easier to rationalize the filing of unoriginal bills than delivering unoriginal speeches because even the Constitution was “plagiarized” from the US charter.

“We plagiarized the US Constitution. All the amendments became our Bill of Rights. But do they call us a plagiaristic country? No, because the law is based on precedent,” Sotto’s chief of staff said.

“Even our Insurance Code is a plagiarized document. The proposed freedom of information bill is plagiarized. What’s more, the Senate and House (of Representatives) versions of the RH bill are very similar. So who is plagiarizing who?” he added.

Villacorta reminded everyone that “the Bible reached us today because the monks copied from the Greeks. Everything really started from a little copying.”

All plagiarists

“Even our image was copied from God. We are all plagiarists,” he said.

HOLY COW!!! Villacorta’s latest media stunt should be properly called ‘defending the indefensible’.

On the other hand, here’s how Sotto poorly defended himself:

“Ang tanong doon may copyright ba iyong blog niya? Kung may copyright iyong blog niya, either dapat mag sorry ako or mag-apologize ako. Or idemanda niya ako (The question is, is her blog covered by a copyright? If the blog has copyright, either I say sorry or I apologize. Or she can sue me),” said Sotto.

In an interview over Radyo Inquirer 990AM, Sotto insisted that Pope simply copied  her blog too from another source, Russian-born Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, who claims that contraceptives cause an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the intestines that breaks down defense against infection.

“The problem is she just copied it. Second, it’s a blog and has no copyright,” he said.

*FACEPALM* again! To be honest the senator is simply making a fool of himself. No wonder why Sotto’s surrogate did a great disservice to him instead of properly, effectively defending him.

Mr. Sotto, you are a Senator and a lawmaker. For even if the blogger’s article was not copyrighted, common sense would have told you that mere copying of other people’s works without attribution,  or even proper paraphrasing, is wrong!

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago

How about Senator Miriam? She said in defense of Sotto: “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.” 

Yeah, right!

Sen. Pia Cayetano called what she did “research”, not plagiarism. LMAO!

But is this what you call research? Well, that reminds me of a popular quotation that says:

“If You Steal From One Author, It’s Plagiarism; If You Steal From Many, It’s Research…”

From this story:

“Citing authors and sources is part of the writing process. I am happy to do (this) because it shows the depth of research done,” was one of the tweets that Cayetano posted on her Twitter page @piacayetano.

“I tweeted before, our Intellectual Property Code states that [one’s] literary work is protected [from] the time of creation,” she also said.

“I respect that and practice attributions in my Senate speeches since I often quote UN [United Nations] and other sources,” said one of Cayetano’s tweets.

“Even in my personal work, I habitually attribute my sources. As an [example], see my blog [regarding] impeachment,” another tweet said.

“If at any time, I fail to attribute, I immediately make the necessary corrections and amends,” Cayetano said.

If this is how  our political elites view things, I think we’re doomed!

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