Remember this guy?
He was cited for contempt during the Corona impeachment trial for covering his ears while Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago railed at the prosecution for being gago and epal and all sorts of things. This, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said was “a sign of disrespect to a member in this court and that can’t be allowed to pass and must be dealt with according to the rules.”
He was escorted out of the Senate session hall and was banned from appearing before the Senate impeachment court again. All this for covering his ears because a senator was screaming her lungs out. But that is understandable. We must, after all, protect the dignity of the Senate as an institution.
But nothing at all from our esteemed senators over a clear and present danger to the dignity the Senate holds so dearly and guards so jealously: its own majority floor leader making a mockery of discourse, intellectual property, and of the Senate itself.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, ending his multi-part turno en contra (literally “turn against”) speech against the Reproductive Health bill, appears to have appropriated parts of a speech made by the late U.S. senator Robert Kennedy in 1966 and claimed them as his own.
His response to critics who said he had copied someone else’s words again:
“I found the idea good. I translated it into Tagalog [Filipino]. So what’s the problem?” Sotto told the Philippine Daily Inquirer when asked about his reaction to the fresh accusations.
“Ano? Marunong nang mag-Tagalog si Kennedy? (What now? Does Kennedy now know how to speak in Tagalog)?” he added.
This, apparently, is par for the course at the Sotto School of Rhetoric. Last month, when he was accused of stealing content from a U.S.-based blogger for use in his speech, he dismissed the accusation as silly.
When his staff later admitted to copying from the blog but without Sotto’s knowledge, the defenses became doubly damning: That copying is normal at the Senate, and that it is all right because it is not a crime.
Despite that, there has been nothing but support from the Senate. Neither Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago nor Senator Pia Cayetano, who are pushing passage of the Reproductive Health bill have said anything.
Enrile has dismissed the plagiarism allegations saying the copying was done in good faith and what matters is whether the copied content was factual or not. Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada’s reaction is even more reason to damn the whole Upper House of Hypocrisy: “I have no business meddling in the affairs of other senators.”
This from an institution that holds hearings on the barest hint of corruption and the slightest chance of TV time. This from an institution that earlier this year voted to remove then Chief justice Renato Corona from office for lying on his Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth. This from a Senate that actually did meddle in the affairs of Senator Manuel Villar Jr. when he was accused of getting rich on a supposedly diverted road extension project.