The office of Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late US senator Robert F. Kennedy (RFK), has confirmed the authenticity of a strongly worded statement against Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III that began to circulate widely on the Internet over the weekend.
The statement chastises Sotto for "his unethical, unsanctioned theft of Robert Kennedy's intellectual property and the intellectual property of all those whose work he has plagiarized."
The statement, dated November 9, is signed by Ms. Kennedy under the letterhead of the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights based in New York, of which she is both founder and president.
However, Sotto told reporters on Monday, November 12, that he is still waiting for an official copy of the document to be sent to his office before commenting on the matter.
"Bakit ako magrereact, wala ako natatanggap? So no comment... ako [kasi] magiging talking head ng story. Kayo ba may natanggap ba kayo? Bakit ninyo pinapatulan?" he said.
GMA News Online received a scanned copy of the statement last Friday, and sought a verification of the document from Meaghan Baron, senior communications strategist at the RFK Center, who replied on Monday morning.
"I passed along your email to Kerry (Kennedy). And yes, I can confirm (Kerry's) letter on Senator Sotto is legitimate," Baron said in response to GMA News Online's inquiry via email.
Below is a direct line-by-line comparison of excerpts from Kennedy's speech (in underlined letters) and Sotto's speech (in italic letters):
Few will have the greatness to bend history;
Iilan ang magiging dakila sa pagbali ng kasaysayan,
but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events,
subalit bawat isa sa atin ay maaaring kumilos, gaano man kaliit, para ibahin ang takbo ng mga pangyayari.
Thousands of Peace Corps volunteers are making a difference in the isolated villages and the city slums of dozens of countries.
(no equivalent in Sotto speech)
Thousands of unknown men and women in Europe resisted the occupation of the Nazis and many died, but all added to the ultimate strength and freedom of their countries.
It is from numberless diverse acts of courage such as these
Ang mga hindi-mabilang na iba’t ibang galaw ng katapangan at paninindigan
that the belief that human history is thus shaped.
ang humuhubog sa kasaysayan ng sangkatauhan.
Each time a man stands up for an ideal,
Tuwing naninindigan tayo para sa isang paniniwala,
or acts to improve the lot of others,
tuwing kumikilos tayo para mapabuti ang buhay ng iba,
or strikes out against injustice,
tuwing nilalabanan natin ang kawalan ng katarungan,
he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope,
nakalilikha tayo ng maliliit na galaw.
and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples
Kapag nagkasama-sama ang mumunting galaw na mga ito,
build a current which can sweep down
bubuo ito ng isang malakas na puwersang kayang magpabagsak
the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
maging ng pinakamatatag na dingding ng opresyon.
Kennedy: Sotto 'distorted' father's speech
In her statement, Kennedy said: "I am particularly offended to see a speech my father gave in support of global human rights distorted by Senator Sotto as an argument against the right to contraception."
"The Day of Affirmation speech is an internationally well-known and frequently referenced piece of American rhetoric. The 'ripple of hope' line in particular is one of Robert Kennedy's best known quotes and it is absurd to suggest that Senator Sotto came up with identical remarks himself," she added.
"This is an argument that has no ethical merit. This is a clear case of plagiarism, and it is my understanding that Senator Sotto has committed similar acts of plagiarism against a series of American writers and speakers," she concluded.
Kennedy was also offended that Sotto had used her father's speech to attack pro-contraceptive legislation.
"Expanding and protecting access to contraception is a global priority I have promoted for years, and limiting that freedom was in no way the topic of the 1966 Day of Affirmation speech," she said.
Sotto: No comment for now
In an interview with reporters on Monday, Sotto said that he will not issue any comment until he receives an official communication from the Kennedy camp.
"Hangga't walang official [communication], don't say a word kasi ano rereact-an mo, baka imbento lang yan ng mga afficionado, mga manipulator sa Internet," he said. "Kayo naman o, you are being manipulated."
When asked if he would consider issuing a public apology as Kennedy had demanded, Sotto said: "For what? That's [plagiarism accusation] not true."
US bloggers' complaint, parliamentary immunity
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, however, said senators cannot be questioned by anybody outside the Senate, invoking parliamentary immunity.
"You cannot be questioned when you say anything here. Constitutional law yun. I said that before not because of any arrogance of power," he said. "That's the immunity granted by the people."
"If you really respect the Constitution, then enforce that rule. If you don't want it, change the system of government or amend the Constitution," he added.
Enrile was referring to Article 6, Section 11 of the Constitution, which reads in part: "No member shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in Congress or in any committee thereof."
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, in a separate interview, said on Monday that parliamentary immunity does not apply to ethics complaints.
"No, this is a self... an auto limitation imposed by senators on themselves," she said.
She noted, however, that the issue can be settled if Sotto satisfies the demands of the complainants.
"Basically, [they are] just asking for acknowledgment of authorship. I don't think we should let it go any further than that," she said. — with reports from Kimberly Tan and TJ Dimacali, GMA News