Sotto says he is unfazed by ethics complaints over plagiarized speeches
MANILA, Philippines — Netizens aren’t letting Sen. Tito Sotto off the hook, but the Senate majority leader is unfazed.
Sotto brushed off, on Monday, threats from bloggers to file an ethics complaint against him for plagiarizing portions of web articles in making speeches against the reproductive health bill on the Senate floor.
“These were invented in the email. I will be happy to reply or to react when I receive an official communication to that effect. Other than that, maybe they just want me to be a talking head so they could have news. Excuse me,” Sotto said in an ambush interview.
Sotto stands accused of using in his speech against the contentious reproductive health (RH) bill parts from a blog entry written by US-based Sarah Pope without attribution.
Local bloggers supportive of the RH bill pointed out Sotto’s uncredited quote of the Pope blog, that ironically paraphrased an expert’s opinion on the subject and wasn’t even an original idea.
Days later, Sotto delivered another speech against the RH bill that included quotes from a speech made by the late US Sen. Robert Kennedy in 1966. After bloggers pointed out the second instance of plagiarism, Sotto said he only included and translated into Filipino a quote he found relevant to the RH issue that was “texted” to him.
The senator even joked he did not realize that Kennedy “spoke Tagalog.”
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, defending Sotto, said that whatever senators uttered in a privilege speech was covered by parliamentary immunity.
“We cannot be questioned anywhere for what we say inside this chamber. Not because we are a special breed but because that is the immunity given by the sovereign people so that we can speak on any subject under the sun,” Enrile told reporters.
“You cannot be questioned by anybody outside this chamber. How can you be questioned if you say anything here? That’s Constitutional law. Not because of any arrogance of power (but) those people who do not understand it (are) ignorant of the very Constitution they are supposed to espouse,” he said.
“They can file a case…(but whether) they can get enough senators to vote in their favor, that’s the problem. As long as we have this system, it’s a question of numbers.”
Enrile said a two-thirds vote would be required before a senator facing an ethics complaint could be meted disciplinary action. Penalties range from admonition to expulsion from the chamber.
Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, chair of the Senate ethics committee, said he had received “less than 10” ethics complaints but declined to give details.