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Sotto aide takes blame but denies plagiarism, says blogs meant to be shared

August 17, 2012 2:22pm
The chief of staff of Sen. Tito Sotto has come out in the open to take the blame for the alleged plagiarism the senator committed in his speech last Monday against the pending Reproductive Health bill.
 
While Atty. Hector A. Villacorta admitted to copying from a US-based blog, he told GMA News Online on Friday that what he and his staff did was not plagiarism.

“You have a blog, it is meant to be shared, it’s in the public domain, so it’s not plagiarism,” he said.
 
Sotto delivered the speech on the Senate floor Monday in which he described the harmful effects of contraceptives on unborn babies, using the death of his own infant son 37 years ago as his example.

Alfredo Melgar, a Filipino blogger, pointed out that a lengthy passage from Sotto's speech was lifted nearly word for word from the blog of "Sarah, the healthy home economist," written by an American health advocate, Sarah Pope, who also opposes vaccines for children and offers recipes for grain-free pumpkin cookies and other organic goodies.

Sotto earlier denied to the media that he copied from the blogger and said that he was quoting from a book by a Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. 

Sarah Pope insisted in a blog post that the words Sotto used were hers and not McBride's, calling the senator a "lying thief."

Sotto's chief of staff Villacorta wrote to Pope publicly, admitting their "single trespass."

Commenting under the account name “lezel,” Villacorta told Pope: “(W)hat have we done to deserve your incriminating words? The senator did not lift it himself, we did.”
 
In a phone interview, Villacorta explained to GMA News Online, “I asked my staff who was commenting as ‘lezel’ to open her account. I said you’ve been talking to Sarah, and she’s angry. So I typed out a few things to comment to her,” explained.
 
Villacorta defended his and his staff’s actions, saying that there is no law covering blogs, and therefore copying from them isn’t considered plagiarism.

“There is no jurisprudence, there is no privacy law, even if she wants to press charges. I already talked to a lawyer from New York. Even in the US, there is no legislation,” Villacorta said.
 
On Wednesday, Sotto gave another speech attacking the RH bill. Various bloggers have since pointed out several more instances where lengthy unattributed passages from the speech were also found in previously published blogs. 

When asked about these new findings, Villacorta said he wasn't aware of the fresh allegations of plagiarism, but said that he wasn't going to comment unless the bloggers who were purportedly copied from complain, like what Sarah Pope did. 

"Hindi naman copyrighted ang blogs kasi," he explained, adding that he was tasked by the senator to speak about the issue on his behalf. "If they can show that it's verbatim, and they're the source [that's when it might be plagiarism]. Pero hindi copyrighted, so there's no infringement." 

When asked if all Internet-published content can be copied without permission, he replied, "Yes, the Internet is a free range of ideas for the world to see. It's in the free atmosphere."

However, he reiterated that the absence of legislation makes Internet copyright a grey area. 

'We over-attribute'

Villacorta reiterated Sotto’s earlier claims that the passages lifted almost verbatim from Pope's blog are actually based on older, published research by Dr. Campbell-McBride. “Technically you don’t have to ask her (Pope) personally,” Villacorta said.
 
“We over-attribute, if anything,” Villacorta said, explaining that in Sotto’s speeches, his staff always puts a blanket attribution at the beginning of the speech. 

Sotto himself told the media on Thursday: "I always say a blanket disclosure, these are not from me, anong plagiarism dun?" 
 
When asked if any attribution should ever be given to blogs, Villacorta had this to say: “The best way is to say you got it from a blog.” 

But when reminded that the senator didn’t attribute to any blogs, Villacorta acknowledged, “The researcher admitted that there was an oversight, that she copied but did not attribute."
 
Taking the fall

Villacorta on Thursday tried to make amends on Sarah Pope's blog, addressing the blogger,  “I understand you felt slighted that your blog was not attributed to you which became part of the speech of the senator. Let me say that after asking my staff, indeed your blog was used but only in quoting also from the same book of Dr. Campbell-McBride." 
 
Pope, whose blog traffic has skyrocketed following the eruption of the controversy, swiftly responded in the same thread to dispute Villacorta's admission. "My BLOG was quoted, not Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. I put her work in my own words and you copied my words," the blogger insisted.

A close examination of Sotto's speech on the Senate web site shows that even the misplaced comma ("According, to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD...") in Pope's blog found itself in Sotto's text, which appears to show a copy-paste job. 
 
But Villacorta maintained that his staff quoted Campbell-McBride. "We are both indebted to the book's author but if you wish that you also be credited with the contents of the book, let this be your affirmation. I can do it and by this message I am doing it. Hope it satisfies you," he told Pope. 
 
Sotto chief of staff also held fast to his claim that his and his staff's actions are not those of their boss, Senator Sotto. He characterized his and his staff's actions as an "oversight." 

---------------

Passages from Sen. Sotto's speech last Wednesday that had nearly the same wording as posts on previously published blogs, as compiled by Canada-based newspaper editor and novelist Miguel Syjuco: 

Sen. Sotto’s speech:
 
Sanger was so intent on reducing family size that she seemed to not stop even at abortion. Many believe that under the right circumstances, Sanger would have condoned infanticide. Indeed she wrote in her book Woman and the New Race: "The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it."

This comes from the woman who formed the philosophical base for IPPF.

But there was even a darker side to Margaret Sanger: a side that IPPF people try to cover up or explain away. That was her belief in "eugenics." Eugenics is defined as "the application of the laws of hereditary to physical and mental improvement, especially of the human race."

To Sanger this meant the systematic elimination (through birth control, including abortion) of all those people she and her cohorts considered to be of "dysgenic stock" in order to create a race of superior intellectuals.

From the Multiply blog (2008) of Marlon C. Ramirez, former SVD priest:

Sanger was so intent on reducing family size that she seemed to not stop even at abortion. Many believe that, under the right circumstances, Sanger would have condoned infanticide. Indeed, she wrote in her book Woman And the New Race: “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” This comes from the woman who formed the philosophical base for Planned Parenthood. You can also see that her interest in birth control was not just due to some humane concern for health of women (which birth control doesn’t help anyway), but was driven in part by her desire to encourage women to engage in sex without having children.

But there was another side of Margaret Sanger; a side that Planned Parenthood people try to cover up or explain away. That was her belief in eugenics. Eugenics is defined as “the application of the laws of heredity to physical and mental improvement, especially of the human race.” To Sanger this meant the systematic elimination (through birth control, including abortion) of all those people she and her cohorts considered to be of “dysgenic stock” in order to create a race of superior intellectuals.
 
-----

Sotto’s speech:

The two activists met in December of 1936 when Sanger traveled to India to speak with Gandhi about birth control, population and the plight of women in India. At that time, Sanger staunchly advocated the global use of artificial contraceptives and, in order to make the acceptance of such contraceptives easier to the Indian populace, sought to make Gandhi an ally…

Despite the fact that the movement was gaining popularity in a society with a serious poverty crisis, Gandhi was an outspoken critic of artificial birth control. His general attitude was that
"Persons who use contraceptives will never learn the value of self-restraint. They will not need it. Self-indulgence with contraceptives may prevent the coming of children but will sap the vitality of both men and women, perhaps more of men than of women. It is unmanly to refuse battle with the devil."
 
The blog Feminists for Choice: (Feb 2010)

The two activists met in 1936 when Sanger traveled to India to speak with Gandhi about birth control. By that time Sanger was advocating internationally for artificial contraceptives and sought to make Gandhi an ally.
 
Despite the fact that the movement was gaining popularity in a society with a serious poverty crisis, Gandhi was an outspoken critic of artificial birth control. His general attitude was that
“Persons who use contraceptives will never learn the value of self-restraint. They will not need it. Self-indulgence with contraceptives may prevent the coming of children but will sap the vitality of both men and women, perhaps more of men than of women. It is unmanly to refuse battle with the devil.”

-----
 
Sen. Sotto’s speech:

In fact, in a study undertaken by Raymond Pearl, a John Hopkins professor and noted authority on this matter, wrote: "Those who practice contraception as part of their sex life, by their own admission, resort to criminally induced abortions about three times as often proportionately as do their comparable non-contraceptor contemporaries."

Also in a report prepared for the Royal Commission on Population in Great Britain found that the incidence of induced abortion as a percentage of all pregnancies was nine times higher for women using contraceptives than for women not using birth control.

The blog The Truth of Contraceptives:

In 1939, Raymond Pearl, a Johns Hopkins professor and noted authority, wrote: "Those who practice contraception as part of their sex life, by their own admission, resort to criminally induced abortions about three times as often propotionately as do their comparable non-contraceptor contemporaries."

In Great Britain, in 1949, a report prepared for the Royal Commission on Population found that the incidence of induced abortion as a percentage of all pregnancies was nine times higher for women using contraceptives than for women not using birth control.

– with reporting by Job de Leon/ YA, GMA News

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