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Three US bloggers set to file plagiarism complaint vs Sen. Sotto

November 7, 2012 4:07pm
UPDATED NOV. 8, 4PM Three US-based bloggers are planning to file a unified complaint against Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III for allegedly plagiarizing their work in his speeches against the Reproductive Health Bill.

In separate emails to GMA News Online, all three bloggers said that their complaint will be filed before the Philippine Senate Ethics Committee, headed by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano. However, no date was given for the filing.
 
"At no time did Senator Sotto provide citation information or indicate in any way that this material was written by others," reads their collective complaint, which was signed and dated October 1, 2012. 

"Neither Senator Sotto nor anyone associated with him requested permission to use our articles and blog entries, or contacted us or anyone associated with our publications," the complaint stated. "We find this misuse of our work to be deceptive, unethical, illegal and unacceptable."


 
'A welcome development' –but is it real?

A copy of the complaint was handed to Mike Caber, Sotto's media relations officer, prior to publication of this article, and the senator was asked if he was aware that the bloggers were filing a complaint against him.
 
In a text message, Sen. Sotto said he had yet to be informed of the complaint as of Wednesday afternoon, but was eager for the chance to clear his name. 
 
"It's a welcome development because that will give me a chance to prove there was no such thing (pertaining to the plagiarism accusations)," the senator said.

But after viewing the document, Sotto and his staff questioned its authenticity, pointing out that it did not even have an official letterhead. They also pointed out that the complaint did not mention anything about laying the matter before the Senate Ethics Committee.

Syjuco vs. Sotto

A facsimile of the signed document was sent to GMA News Online by Canada-based writer and novelist Miguel Syjuco, who has been in contact with all the complainants. Syjuco is an outspoken critic of Sotto, having earlier challenged the senator in an open letter over Sotto's stand on the Reproductive Health Bill and accusations of plagiarism.
 
In his email to GMA News Online, Syjuco said that bloggers Sarah Couture Pope of Healthy Home EconomistJanice Formichella of Feminists for Choice; and Peter Engelman of New York University's Margaret Sanger Papers Project signed a complaint in protest of Sen. Sotto's "infringement of their intellectual property rights and plagiarism of their copyrighted material as posted on their respective blogs."

Bloggers confirm complaint to Senate

In separate emails to GMA News Online, all three bloggers confirmed the authenticity of the document and the intention to submit their complaint to the Senate.

"We are filing with the Senate Ethics Committee," Formichella underscored.

"(Our) complaint is to be filed with the Senate Ethics Committee," Sarah Pope also said.

"I am very hopeful that the Senate Ethics Committee will formally censure Senator Sotto and hold him accountable for his grievous actions for which he has no remorse.  If something is not done, he will just continue to steal the work of others and continue to get away with it which sets a terrible example to the young people of the Philippines and makes the rest of the world consider the Philippine Senate a governmental body that is not to be taken seriously," she added.

"I stand by the signed statement released by Miguel Syjuco that will be filed with the Senate Ethics Committee of the Philippine Senate," Peter Engelman said in a separate email.

It was not immediately clear how and when the complaint would be filed with the Senate committee.
 
Pope's and Formichella's previous complaints

Earlier, Pope had expressed concern that Sotto lifted and "twisted" her description of the ill effects of birth control pills to fit his stand against the Reproductive Health Bill.

"I am sorry my blog was used and twisted against (Filipinas). You deserve the choice to use The Pill if you want or need to based on your particular circumstances. While I want you to know that this choice has health consequences, I, in no way would ever condone taking this choice away from you!" she was quoted as saying.
 
In an email interview, Pope told GMA News Online: "I feel that Senator Sotto needs to be held accountable for his blatant disregard for the creative content of others that is clearly copyrighted which he flippantly steals and then gloats that nothing will ever happen to him even going as far as to insult the very people he has stolen from when they complain about his actions."
 
Likewise, Formichella told GMA News Online in a separate email that a reader left a comment on the Feminists for Choice blog telling her of the situation.
 
"I am frustrated that my blog post, which meant to promote a woman's right to make choices about her reproductive health, is being used in any manner that promotes an anti-choice agenda. I believe strongly in the women's health bill in question and would never want my research or work to be used to argue against the legislation," she said, adding that, to her knowledge, this is the first time her work has been plagiarized.
 
Formichella also said, "I would like him to acknowledge this point. I would also like an apology for the manner in which he has previously defamed me to the press."

Engelman on Gandhi

The latest blogger to speak out against the senator, Engelman, told GMA News Online via email: "Miguel Syjuco first brought this matter to my attention... I have not filed a complaint before."

He added: "The Senator should publicly apologize for this deceptive and unethical misuse of intellectual property and cease committing acts of plagiarism," he said. 
 
In 2000, Engelman wrote an article for the Margaret Sangers Paper Project titled, "Gandhi and Sanger Debate Love, Lust and Birth Control".
 
He posted a transcript of a conversation between Mahatman Gandhi and Margaret Sangers on population, birth control, and the fate of Indian women, recorded on Dec. 3, 1935.
 
Below is a look at Engelman's blog entry vis-a-vis Sen. Sotto's speech, with similarly-worded portions underlined in both excerpts to facilitate comparison:
 
Sotto’s August 16 Senate speech
"While Sanger claimed she merely wanted to pay her respects and give a personal tribute to Gandhi, she coveted nothing less than his endorsement of the widespread use of artificial birth control methods. Gandhi firmly stood by his belief that the spiritual bonds of marriage are strengthened by sexual abstinence. He thus completely rejected Sanger’s plea for contraception as a tool to control population growth, fearing it would lead to an increase in non-procreative sex, which he viewed as immoral lust."
 
Peter Engelman’s original
"While Sanger claimed she mainly wanted to pay her respects and give a personal tribute to Gandhi, she coveted nothing less than his endorsement of birth control. Gandhi promoted the spiritual bonds of marriage, which, he argued, were strengthened by continence. He reluctantly agreed to consider sanctioning the safe period or rhythm method, but rejected Sanger’s plea for contraception to control population growth, fearing it would lead to an increase in non-procreative sex, which he viewed as immoral lust."
 
 
— with Kimberly Jane Tan / TJD, YA, GMA News
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