Sotto: Constitution protects me

Posted at 11/12/2012 6:57 PM | Updated as of 11/13/2012 8:13 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Senate Majority Leader Vicente "Tito" Sotto III has found an ally in Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, as he faces an ethics complaint for plagiarism that will be filed this week.

Sotto was answering questions from reporters about the issue before Monday's session when Enrile entered the plenary hall.

Enrile asked Sotto what he was being interviewed about.

"Mayroon daw nagco-complain sa speech ko. Tinagalog ko raw ang speech ni Kennedy," Sotto told Enrile, referring to the late US Senator Robert F. Kennedy and his 1966 Day of Affirmation speech.

In the last part of his speech against the reproductive health (RH) bill in September, Sotto translated parts of Kennedy's famous address in Tagalog without attributing it to him. Critics accused him of plagiarism.

"Mabuti nga Tinagalog mo si Kennedy. Tatagalugin ko rin si Socrates," Enrile answered, chuckling.

Aside from copying Kennedy's speech, Sotto was also criticized for lifting parts of several blog entries and using them without attribution in his speeches against the RH bill.

A group of academicians will file a complaint against Sotto before the committee on ethics and privileges on Tuesday.

Sotto continued: "Sabi ko, before you question a senator of the republic, you read the Philippine Constitution first. Article 6, section 11."

Sotto was referring to the 1987 Constitution's provision granting senators and congressmen immunity from any liability for whatever they say inside both chambers of Congress.

Enrile agreed with Sotto, one of his closest allies in the Senate.

"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 said.

Enrile added that although the ethics committee can hear the plagiarism complaint, the big question is if Sotto's critics can get the support of enough senators to punish him.

Under the Senate rules, the worst punishment for an erring senator is expulsion.

"Can you kick out, can you discipline a senator if you do not have the numbers?" Enrile said. "It's not a question of arrogance of power. That's the immunity granted by the people."

Earlier, Sotto dismissed the plan to file an ethics complaint against him as a "rehash" of the plagiarism issue.

He refused to comment any further as he still doesn't have a copy of the complaint.

Asked if he would issue an apology on the plagiarism issue, Sotto said, "Huh? For what?"