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Noted poll lawyer, group want Sotto ethics case dismissed

November 14, 2012 12:24pm
(Updated 1:21 p.m.) Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III, facing an ethics complaint for alleged plagiarism, has found allies in a group of self-described responsible Internet users and an election lawyer formerly associated with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
 
The group Cyber R.I.S.E. and Atty. Romulo Macalintal on Wednesday both asked the Senate ethics and privileges committee not to pay attention to the ethics complaint filed against Sotto.
 
In separate letters to Senate Minority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, chairman of the ethics committee, Macalintal and Cyber R.I.S.E. said there are much more important issues to be tackled by the Senate than the alleged plagiarism case against Sotto.
 
"I respectfully believe that it would be such a disservice to the Filipino people if issues such as the alleged plagiarism of Senator Sotto would be given supreme priority," Macalintal, Sotto's former lawyer, said after personally submitting the letter to the Senate ethics committee.

"There are so many pending bills which deserve the Senate's attention. Certainly, the resolution of these matters would be more beneficial to the Filipino people, and more responsive to the needs of the nation, rather than insisting to condemn a legislator based on his absolutely protected speech and for his alleged failure to say sorry for what the complainants perceived as an improper conduct of a legislator," he added.

The complaint was filed by a group of bloggers and university professors on Tuesday.
 
For its part, Cyber R.I.S.E., or Responsible Internet Users for Social Empowerment, said a hearing on the ethics complaint against Sotto would be a waste of people's money.
 
The group was a staunch supporter of the controversial Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, the implementation of which was temporarily stopped by the Supreme Court after petitions were filed challenging its constitutionality.
 
"Kami po ay lubos na kumakatok sa inyong butihing puso na huwag na bigyan ng pansin ang usaping ito at huwag ninyong hayaang dungisan nila at manipulahin ang isang institusyon ng mga halal na opisyal ng ating pamahalaan," the group said in the letter.

Manipulation

"Itong nagaganap, sa tingin namin isang malaking manipulasyon, mas marami pang isyung dapat pag-usapan…  Sa tingin namin, panawagan namin, ipawalang bahala na 'yung magaganap pang usapan o hearing," the group's spokesperson, Alexandreau Deita, told reporters.
 
Aside from the letter, Cyber R.I.S.E. also filed a motion to intervene in the ethics complaint.
 
Sotto is accused of lifting portions of his speech against the Reproductive Health bill without proper attributions from foreign authors.

"Ang bagay na ito, sa aking palagay, ay bugso lamang ng damdamin ng mga nagko-complain at sinasabi na plagiarism," he said. "Sa akin namang palagay, wala namang masasabi na na-plagiarize si Senator Sotto sapagkat he is not claiming ownership of the statements that he made."

He even said that the late US senator Robert F. Kennedy would probably be "appreciative" that his words are being used in "fighting for the most important right - the right to life."

The office of Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the former US lawmaker, has chastised Sotto in a letter for "his unethical, unsanctioned theft of Robert Kennedy's intellectual property and the intellectual property of all those whose work he has plagiarized."

On Tuesday, Sotto apologized to the Kennedy family but maintained that he did not plagiarize anybody's speech. He said Kennedy's quote was sent to him by a pastor for inspiration.

Protected by Constitution

Aside from being a waste of public funds, Macalintal also said the complaint should be shelved because of the provision in the Philippine Constitution that protects legislators from complaints.

He cited Article 6, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution which states: "A senator or member of the House of Representatives shall, in all offenses punishable by not more than six years imprisonment, be privileged from arrest while the Congress is in session. No member shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee thereof."

"Alam naman natin na 'yung mga privilege speeches ng mga senador at kongresista sa ating legislature these are privileged communication, na hindi mo po pwedeng matanong at o hindi mo po pwedeng maimbestigahan at sa aking palagay hindi nararapat na ito ay pagpatuloy pa ng Senate ethics committee," he said.

He even commended Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who had earlier reminded the public about the same provision. Other senators and a lawyer, however, have a different opinion.

RH bill

Macalintal is a known oppositor of the RH bill while Deita admitted that he was also against the measure.

Both of them, however, denied they were defending Sotto for reasons related to the controversial bill.

"Ako talaga anti-RH ako at hindi naman sa dahilan sa anti-RH din si Sen. Sotto eh ganun din ako we never talked about RH bill katunayan ni hindi nga kami nag-uusap ni Sen. Sotto about that part matter," said Macalintal.

"Ang aking dinedepensa dito ay ang ating system.  Ang aking dinedepensa dito ay ang ating saligang batas.  Ang aking dinedepensa dito ay ang mga dapat gawin ng ating Senado na dapat nilang pagtuunan ng pansin," he added.
 
Cayetano has yet to issue a comment as of posting time. — KBK, GMA News
 
 
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