The Philippines politics is currently a circus — at least that is what some people accuse it of being. Not that a real circus is an embarrassment, but the idea behind its absurdity and deception makes it amusing — but a real circus is supposed to be an entertaining show only and not a term to describe running a country.
The Philippines currently got itself a new Senate President. He is Vicente Sotto, popularly known as Tito Sotto, a former actor and singer. He has been in the Philippines politics for a long time and he found himself roasted a couple of years back when he publicly cheated in a form of his speeches.
There was one speech he directly copied from American Economist and Columnist, Sarah Pope’s blog and another directly lifted from US Senator Robert Kennedy’s 1966 South Africa address. He could have saved himself only if he knew how to quote someone’s work properly or to paraphrase a sentence or two. But no, he copied these speeches verbatim. The only difference was his speeches were in Filipino language.
He tried to justify by saying that he just took inspiration from the previously mentioned personalities but reading the copies of his speeches will reveal otherwise. He could have at least said something like “Here is an entry from Ms. Pope. And I quote… ” or maybe something like “Senator Kennedy said…” but quoting and drawing inspiration from someone’s article would mean focusing on a paragraph or some lines only and not the whole text.
This led for memes to be circulated about him. Some even coined the term “sottosized” which means to copy. Thinking that he earned his lessons, the reality is he seems as if he didn’t.
Just a few days ago, there was apparently another one he admitted to translating to Tagalog. And what irked citizens was the logic behind his act. He said non-verbatim that his speech was from a Pastor’s preaching he translated to Tagalog thus, not plagiarized. He also mentioned that if plagiarism was defined as such then, Bayang Magiliw — he was referring to The Philippine National Anthem — was plagiarized too as it was originally written in Spanish and not in Filipino.
The Fault in His Logic
We find that excuse very wrong.
First, translation is different from plagiarism. While translation is saying a word or sentences in another language, not necessarily verbatim, plagiarism is copying another person’s work and claiming it as one’s own. You do not need to directly state it as yours but not acknowledging the owner properly is equivalent to doing the same.
Second, The Philippine National Anthem is “Lupang Hinirang” and not Bayang Magiliw. Moreover, no copyright infringement was committed when it was translated to Filipino language — but yes, that can be spared at the least. However, what he did was to translate the speech verbatim without acknowledging the owner. So, if translation is legal, what made it plagiarism? Sotto wouldn’t seem to be able to answer.
How About The Philippines Politics, Then?
Now, if a person cannot understand a basic concept, how do you expect him to be able to lead a group of people who are supposed to uphold the laws and order of a country? How can he possibly postulate concepts or even assess the validity of a proposal if he cannot make sound judgment? If there is one thing a Senator, a Senate President for that matter, can be good at, that is arguing based on facts and science and not bias. Good thing, politicians may hire advisers. But given that, what happened “here?”
In the country, being a Senate President is voted for. Plagiarism is not the only issue where Filipinos get to see how Sotto thinks. He also made commentaries on arts and films and judging by how superficial he looks, how come he earned majority of the votes of fellow senators? Can he really be able to deconstruct laws and account for his observations? If he doesn’t have the skill, how can he be effective?
Yes, we are in doubt not because we just want to criticize but because we want assurance that these men are not playing on a trial-and-error basis. Millions are at stake here—money and citizens. Sometimes, even the ability to predict based on current trends is necessary to make good decisions in terms of legislation. But all this boils down to how much voting in the country has to change. People vote due to popularity. Of course, that helps because how would people know you are running if you are not popular, but at least, voters should also try to look at background and skills.
Philippines Politics: A Time for Popcorn?
In the Philippines, as long as you can read and write, you are qualified for a position. Of course, the candidates are screened but there are still some who pass the “test.” Further, maybe it is time that qualifications for politicians be improved.
We are not saying that college undergraduates can never be good enough — that is not the point. Skills can be trained. What we say is we look at people who have the ability to analyze and the attitude to be open to mistakes and improvement. By justifying plagiarism by anchoring arguments on obviously inappropriate references, Sotto somehow weakens his stance for his current post.
Meanwhile, even Former Senator and the Late Miriam Santiago said that if you vote for clowns, you can expect a circus, we can’t literally look forward for someone to perfect a trapeze routine. Nonetheless, given all the fuss on idolatry and incompetence, the Philippines politics might be actually preparing us for one the greatest shows after all.