Sotto's translation still plagiarism, says UP prof

Posted at 09/06/2012 4:55 PM | Updated as of 09/06/2012 7:34 PM

There is a law vs plagiarism, says ex-UP mass comm dean

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - University of the Philippines (UP) journalism professor Luis V. Teodoro said translating someone else's work doesn't excuse anyone from plagiarism.

Teodoro was reacting to a query on whether an apparent Filipino translation of a part of former US Senator Robert F. Kennedy's speech in Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto's turno en contra on Wednesday regarding the Reproductive Health (RH) bill constitutes plagiarism.

Teodoro said, "Plagiarism pa rin iyon." To verify if the material was indeed plagiarized, one must look if it is a direct translation of someone else's work, he added.

Teodoro, who is also the deputy director of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, believes Sotto's actions were either deliberate or out of a lack of understanding of what plagiarism means.

He suspects the members of Sotto's staff also don’t understand plagiarism.

'Yes, there is a law vs plagiarism'

Teodoro maintained there is a law against plagiarism, which is copyright infringement.

He also noted there may be a “culture of impunity” and “breach of ethics” in Sotto's actions.

"Siguro walang demanda kasi ang assumption, senador ako. May culture of impunity na: ‘I can get away with anything kung walang law.’ It’s unethical,” he said.

He noted the University of the Philippines (UP) has expelled students for plagiarism because of university rules against dishonesty. He said plagiarism is a form of dishonesty.

UP also once recalled a doctorate granted a student after it was discovered that the student plagiarized a dissertation, he said. "Grave na offense iyan. It involves theft.”

He said people plagiarize out of sheer dishonesty or recklessness to prove that one has competence to speak on a subject matter.

He said, however, there have been cases when the act is unintentional. He said someone may have just forgotten or failed to attribute a piece.

In such case, the writer would have to apologize, he said.

'Exaggerated, storm in a tea cup'

Meantime, some senators downplayed the recent plagiarism accusation against Sotto, saying the Senate must not concern itself with the issue.
 
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Sotto's fellow reproductive health (RH) bill critic, said, "Hindi ko na papatulan 'yon."
 
Even Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., a pro-RH bill senator, thinks the issue has been exaggerated.
 
He believes it's just part of the entire RH debate, with "either side trying to put pressure on the other side." Sotto is a staunch critic of the bill.
 
"I think it's a storm in a teacup," Marcos told reporters on Thursday. "I don't really think it's an issue that should concern the Senate too much."
 
Marcos also doubts if Sotto indeed committed plagiarism.
 
"Some phrases that have been coined by some speakers have entered the general lexicon of the English language. They no longer need to be attributed because they belong to the English language and not to one person alone," he said.
 
The senator added that in Sotto's earlier anti-RH bill speeches where he was also accused of plagiarism, he had in fact made a blanket attribution by saying the facts did not come from him.
 
Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, meanwhile, said it's up to Sotto to investigate the matter.
 
"It's internal on their part," he said, referring to Sotto's office. "I have no business meddling in the affairs of other senators." -- with a report from Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News