MAKATI CITY, September 19, 2012—After the long-drawn out hullabaloo over Sen. Vicente Sotto III’s apparent lifting of entire passages from several sources for a speech, an Ateneo lawyer categorically says what Sotto did is not plagiarism after all.
Political, not academic
Ateneo de Manila Law School professor Atty. Jemy Gatdula cited the nature of Sotto’s speech, which was political and not academic; and the lack of intent on Sotto’s part to deceive.
“History has been replete with people making oratorical speeches, political speeches wherein they actually borrow from certain sources without necessarily attributing it,” he explained.
Atty. Gatdula, who specializes in economic and international law, mentioned how John F. Kennedy’s most iconic sound bite—“Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country”—was not even originally his.
Depending on the source, the original quote belonged to Gen. Omar Bradley whom Kennedy never gave credit to.
A more recent example is US President Barack Obama who quoted his friend in a speech but did not attribute it.
Intent to deceive
According to Atty. Gatdula, what further separates Sotto’s case from outright intellectual dishonesty, like in the case of Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg and vice president of the European Parliament Silvana Koch-Mehrin, who allegedly plagiarized passages on their theses, is the intent to deceive and the academic nature of the work in question.
Guttenberg and Koch-Mehrin both resigned over the allegations last year.
Merriam-Webster defines plagiarism as “stealing and passing off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own.”
This qualifier further deflates the plagiarism issue, because, according to Atty. Gatdula, at the beginning of Sotto’s turno en contra on the RH Bill, the senator mentioned none of what he will be talking about is original and that all his points come from various sources.
While attribution was done sloppily, there was no intent on Sotto’s part to pass off other people’s work as his own, which is a determining factor in plagiarism.
“It could be a lapse of memory, but that’s certainly not an act of dishonesty,” Atty. Gatdula explained. [Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz]