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Professors, bloggers file ethics complaint vs Sotto

(Updated 1:11 p.m.) Thirty-seven complainants, including bloggers, university professors, and members of a "free-thinking" group, on Tuesday filed an ethics complaint against Senate Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III for alleged plagiarism in his speeches.   In a 16-page complaint, the complainants asked the Senate committee on ethics and privileges to impose the appropriate disciplinary action on Sotto for allegedly violating section 193 of Republic Act 8293 or the Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines by lifting parts of his speech from different authors without proper attribution.   "Ang aming hinihiling ngayon sa Senado ay disiplinahin ninyo ang inyong kasapi sapagkat klarong siyam na beses siyang lumabag sa prinsipyo ng pagbabawal ng pangongopya," said Dr. Antonio Contreras, former dean of De La Salle University's College of Liberal Arts, after filing the complaint.   Section 193 says the author of a work shall have the right "to require that the authorship of the works be attributed to him, in particular, the right that his name, as far as practicable, be indicated in a prominent way on the copies, and in connection with the public use of his work." Sotto: Ethics complaint welcome   Sotto, for his part, was unfazed with the filing of the complaint and even said he “welcomes” it.   "I welcome the ethics complaint against me so I can give a chance to explain my side,” he said in a text message to reporters.   “At the outset, what is apparent to me is that all this brouhaha grew out of my strong consistent stand against the RH (Reproductive Health) bill, and if such continued attack against me are part of the consequence of my advocacy, then so be it," he added. Sotto had earlier said senators cannot be held liable for anything they say in their speeches delivered in the chamber.   He was referring to Article 6 Section 11 of the Constitution that 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." Nine violations   According to the complaint, Sotto allegedly committed the violation at least nine times:   
  • in his August 13 Senate speech (against Sarah Pope)
  • in his August 15 Senate speech (against Marlon Ramirez)
  • in his August 15 Senate speech (against Marlon Ramirez)
  • in his August 15 Senate speech(against Peter Engelman)
  • in his August 15 Senate speech (against Janice Formichella)
  • in his August 15 Senate speech (against Janice Formichella)
  • in his August 15 Senate speech (against Truth of Contraceptives)
  • in his August 15 Senate speech (against C-FAM)
  • in his September 5 Senate speech (against Robert F. Kennedy)
  "Kami po ay nagkakaisa na siya ay importante, sinadya siya at therefore it demands disciplinary action," said University of the Philippines Center for Women's Studies director Dr. Sylvia Estrada-Claudio.   On the constitutional provision mentioned by Sotto, Contreras said it only applies to cases filed outside of the Senate. "Kung kami nagdemanda sa labas, mali talaga ‘yun. Hindi namin pwede i-hold accountable ang senador. Pero sa ethics committee, pwede siyang imbestigahan at parusahan ng kanyang peers. Kaya nga nandito tayo," he said.   "Naiintindihan naman namin ang parliamentary immunity… hindi naman yata kami lahat ignorante sa Konstitusyon. Katulad ko nagtuturo ako ng Agham Pulitika, binabasa ko ang Saligang Batas," he added. Discipline   Ateneo de Manila University Political Science Department professor Dr. Lisandro "Leloy" Claudio said the Senate should discipline Sotto for bringing shame to the chamber.   "Makita naman natin na talagang nagdala ng kahihiyan si Tito Sen dito sa most august body na ito dahil mismo si Kerry Kennedy ay sinasabi na nakakahiya ang ginagawa niya," he said, referring to the daughter of the late US senator Robert Kennedy.   "So bilang Pilipino nahihiya ako na yung senador ko ay inirereklamo ng isang tanyag na personality tulad ni Kerry Kennedy," he added.   Claudio was referring to the letter of the office of Kerry Kennedy chastising Sotto for "his unethical, unsanctioned theft of Robert Kennedy's intellectual property and the intellectual property of all those whose work he has plagiarized."   Senate Minority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, chair of the ethics committee, has assured complainants of fair handling of all cases. Faith in the system   The complainants said they have faith in the system and that it is up to the panel to decide what sanction fits Sotto.   "Naniniwala naman kami sa proseso kaya kami nag-file, kaya kung ano yung maging desisyon nila sa disc action from censure to expulsion we will leave that up to the senators to decide," said Estrada-Claudio.   "We leave it up to the wisdom of the ethics committee to decide yung nararapat na gawin.  Sa amin rin naman ang nararapat na unang gawin ay mag-apologize to the public," added Claudio.   He even said that they probably wouldn't have filed a complaint had Sotto issued a public apology.   "Kaso lang kahapon lumabas na ‘yung letter from Kerry Kennedy, lumabas na ‘yung letter from bloggers. Napakalinaw na ng pangongopya nagyayabang pa rin sa loob ng Senado at sinasabi, what am I going to apologize for. This is unacceptable [kaya] hindi kami nakapagpigil at nagfile kami ngayon," Claudio said.   "[And] given yung attitude ni Senator Sotto, hindi namin ini-expect na mag-aapologize ‘yan. He has to be compelled to apologize or censured by this body," he added.   Rule XXXIV Section 97 of the Senate rules state: "Upon the recommendation of the Committee on Ethics and Privileges, the Senate may punish any Member for disorderly behavior and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of the entire membership, suspend or expel a Member. A penalty of suspension shall not exceed sixty calendar days." RH bill   But Sotto had earlier said the complainants are being manipulated into cornering him because of his stand against the controversial RH bill.   The complainants, however, denied the allegation.   "Sa akin walang nagdidikta nito, kami ay nagsama-sama lang dahil pare-pareho kaming concerned sa intellectual property rights ng mga tao at tsaka ‘yung issue na dahil ba sa kami ay pare-parehong panig sa isang bagay hindi na yun materyal," said Contreras.   "Bilang mga propesor at bilang mga mamamayan na mahalaga sa amin ang pagbigay ng tamang recognition sa intellectual na gawain bilang mga propesor na tinuruan at nagtuturo na elementary palang yan wag ka mangopya," added Estrada-Claudio.   "So ito para sa amin laban ito hindi lamang para sa integrity ng intellectual property ng isang tao kundi para maipadama sa lahat ng mamamayan na sa mata ng batas pantay-pantay tayo," said Contreras.   "Gusto naming ipaalala na pareho lang yung standards ng intellectual honesty and integrity na nag-aapply sa lahat ng tao mapa-blogger man yan o mapa-senador," added Filipino Freethinkers president Red Tani.   Attached in the complaint are the letters of US bloggers who said they also want to file ethics complaints against Sotto.  Also attached is the letter of Kennedy. –KG/KBK, GMA News