SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: The plagiarist as bully, the bully as plagiarist

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/30 August) – Plagiarism – an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author. (Source: www.dictionary.reference.com)

This is precisely what Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III did when he lifted some paragraphs from an entry in the blog of Sarah Pope without citing it as the source. But no, Sotto would not concede that he had committed plagiarism by giving a hair-splitting distinction between plagiarism and copyright infringement. Instead of apologizing for his act or maybe saying that he had given his incompetent staff a tongue-lashing, the senator stood his ground and tried to deflect the issue by a mix of arrogance and appeal to pity.

Sotto betrayed arrogance by arguing that no law governs his act as yet. He was saying in effect that he had done Ms Pope no wrong, hence the stern refusal to issue an apology. It was like telling the author and his critics, “Shut up, you have nothing legally against me. What I did was perfectly right under the circumstances since there is no law that sanctions plagiarism.” Now if that is not bullying, I know not what is.

Worse, hiding behind the cloak of legislative immunity and basking before the glare of national television, Sotto brushed aside Ms Pope’s feelings as an aggrieved writer and sought sympathy for himself as the “first senator to become a victim of cyber-bullying.” Here is where the senator, a comedian by profession who is expected to possess a vast reserve of tolerance for what other people may say, revealed his lack of lenience towards criticisms that come his way as a public official.

Had his critics singled him out for an act not remotely related to his lofty position Sotto would have been right in claiming that he was “cyber-bullied”. Yet the reactions, even if coming from tens of thousands of netizens and no matter how rudely worded perhaps, stemmed from an act that has put questions on his integrity as a public official.

Moreover, the people’s consciousness is still reeling from earlier reports that a Supreme Court justice and a tycoon had committed acts of plagiarism too. Another instance of a public figure accused of the same offense would be like a new storm entering the country just as another one is about to exit.

Sotto taunted the winds. Now the tempest is on him. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])

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