PHILIPPINES – Senator Vicente Sotto III, facing a formal ethics complaint, took to the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon, and offered an apology to the family of the late New York Senator Robert Kennedy for having lifted from Kennedy’s speech without attribution. He added, however: ‘Copying is the highest form of flattery.’

Academics and bloggers filed an ethics complaint against Sotto earlier in the day, formalizing accusations flying since August that the senator had improperly used words from three American authors and Kennedy in speeches against the Reproductive Health bill.

The authors, and the daughter of Kennedy, had complained that beyond improperly copying passages from them and the American senator, Sotto had also misrepresented their thoughts, twisting the contexts of their original words to suit the Filipino legislator’s anti-RH position. Letters from the American parties were submitted by the academics and bloggers who filed the ethics complaint against Sotto on Tuesday.

Prior to the filing of the complaint, Sotto since August – when he first delivered a speech that plunged him into the plagiarism scandal – had insisted that he saw nothing wrong with his statements nor in how he had used thoughts and words from other parties. 

On Tuesday, while stressing that he will not change his position on the RH Bill, Sotto said: “Copying, imitation, is the highest form of flattery. If it upsets the Kennedy family, then I am sorry, but then that’s not my intention.”

Thirty seven individuals, mostly academics and bloggers, on Tuesday filed an ethics complaint against Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III over plagiarized speeches on the Reproductive Health bill.

The  22-page complaint was filed before the Senate Ethics and Privileges Committee chaired by Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano. The complainants were led by Dr. Sylvia Estrada-Claudio of the University of the Philippines’ Center for Women, Antonio Contreras of the De La Salle University College of Liberal Arts, and Ateneo de Manila Political Science Department director Lisandro Claudio.

The complaint said that Sotto violated the Intellectual Property Code of Philippines, or RA 8293, and the Senate’s own ethics rules.

The group formally accused Sotto of copying from blogs and writings of American blogger Sarah Pope, Marlon C. Ramirez, and Peter Engelman. He was also accused of lifting from the late US Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s 1966 “Day of Affirmation” speech.

The complaint said that “to this date, respondent Sotto has not owned up to the nine (9) instances of copying without attributions included in the three parts of his en contra speech delivered on August 13 and 15, and September 5, 2012.

“Neither has he, since then, given proper attribution to any of these authors from whom these works were copied,” the complaint added.

Sotto said: “You can accuse me of anything under the sun, but I will not change my position on the RH Bill. I will be against the distribution of… immorality.”