Sen. Sotto’s plagiarism and the parable of the boiled frog: RH Bill first then abortion

Sen. Tito Sotto

Sen. Tito Sotto

Senator Sotto has been attacked from all sides because of his opposition to the RH Bill. And the attacks are now more vicious: they focus on his character as the dumb student in Iskul Bukol and they ask him to step down because of plagiarism.

Let us ponder on this: the truth of a statement is never diminished whether it was copied without citation from another person’s work. I can copy and paste the arguments of St. Aquinas without attribution, but the truth of what he wrote remains true. What does the Pro-RH groups fear in Sen. Sotto that they focus on his character and not on the arguments he propose? This is not the mark of reasonable and honorable men. “O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason.” (Mark Anthony in Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2). Pardon me, my heart is in the podium where the good Senator stands and my heart shall stay with him until this persecution lasts.

Pro-RH grops accuse Sen. Sotto of plagiarism but not Sen. Pia Cayetano who also plagiarized. The judgement for Sen. Sotto should also be the judgment for Sen. Cayetano because they are both senators of the land and they committed the same offense. As Christ said, “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” (Mt 7:2).

I think it is high time for media and for all of us to focus on Sen. Sotto’s allegations that local and international pro-abortion groups are behind the Pro-RH Bill lobby: USAID, UN agencies, International Planned Parenthood (the largest abortion provider in the world), Family Planning Organizations of the Philippines, Reproductive Health Advocacy Network, Likhaan (which has a website with instructions on how to do abortions as revealed by Pinoy Templars), and Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines. As one meme says: if the RH Bill is against abortion, then why are pro-abortion groups supporting it? Maybe they know something that many of us don’t: the first step to establish an abortion industry in a country is to establish the contraception industry.

Here’s a parable based on the Boiling Frog Syndrome (it is not really true so I am making a story instead):

Fili the Frog loves cold ponds and hates hot springs. But one day, a farmer caught Fili and placed him in a basin of cold water.  Fili swam and enjoyed the cold water.  Then the farmer slowly added heat below the basin, one burning charcoal at a time. Fili felt something is wrong, but he shrugged it off from his thoughts.  “I barely noticed anything,” he said.  “It is just as hot as it was a minute ago.”  So Fili the Frog stayed in the basin and died.

The moral of the story is this: Filipinos do not support abortion and the abortion lobby knows this.  But if the government makes contraceptives freely available through the passage of the RH Bill, then Filipinos will believe that babies are burden and contraceptives lessens the possibility for babies to happen.  Filipinos will then see pregnancy as a sign of failure and they will tell the pregnant woman, “hindi ka kasi nag-ingat” or “that’s because you were not careful”.  Pregnancy becomes a disease; condoms and contraceptive pills become  “essential medicines” to cure this disease.  And as this contraception mentality grows, abortion becomes accepted as a recourse for contraceptive failures.  And the abortion lobby becomes happy: it is now back in business. Yet is is still an underground business.

To recoup its investments from its advocacy (propaganda) work, the abortion lobby will then ask congressmen and senators to amend the RH Bill further to include abortion for very special cases like rape and incest.  If nobody objects to the bill, all reasons for abortion will be made acceptable, especially if the reason is “reproductive health” as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) and cited without attribution in the RH Bill HB 4244: “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”  Slowly, very slowly, the abortion lobby heats the basin and boils the Filipino frog to death.

Such a catch-all definition for the “reproductive health” does not discriminate (this is a bad word in our politically correct  society but I am using it in its proper and original definition of knowing the subtle distinctions between things such as discriminating the wheat from the chaff): reproductive health is mental health is social well-being.  It’s a fuzzy logic.  This is why women in the Western countries will ask for abortion even for flimsiest emotional excuses, because emotional health is part of reproductive health.  A blurred definition results to a blurred mind and the result is moral chaos.  The world has turned upside down.  Women cannot anymore distinguish their bodies from that of their children in their womb; yet they would raise placards in the streets to protect turtle eggs and baby sharks. This blurring of the mind is also seen in lawmakers: they would insist that abortion is a right even though it is wrong, that fetuses less than 20 weeks old are not yet humans, and that a conception only begins when the fertilized ovum is planted in the uterine walls.   That is what we get when we play loose with definitions.  Words matter.

Let me end with a quote from Fr. John A Hardon, SJ:

It must seem strange to call anything our “gravest moral responsibility.” There are so many moral problems in the world today. How can any one of them pose our gravest responsibility. But so it is. In my judgment, the contraception mentality is the single deepest issue facing Western society.

I call it the contraception mentality. But we could just as well call it the contraception ideology. It was centuries in the making. It is devastating in its consequences. And it is at the root of the massive assault on the human family. Nothing less is at stake than the survival of Western, and with emphasis, American society.

And this also holds for the Filipino society.  So let us junk the RH bill.

Katrina Stuart Santiago on the plagiarized speech of Manuel V. Pangilinan: “Why Sorry Ain’t Enough”

Why Sorry Ain’t Enough

April 7th, 2010

Katrina Stuart Santiago (Radical Chick)

Plagiarism is a major offense in the Ateneo de Manila University. Penalties range from disciplinary probation to suspension as outlined in your Student Handbook. Plagiarized work will receive a grade of zero.

This section was part of all the syllabi I put together when I was teaching English and literature in the Ateneo de Manila University, most recently from 2005-2008. And this is why it will be very sad if Manny V. Pangilinan’s resignation/retirement isn’t accepted by the Board of Trustees of the University. I have warned students about using other people’s words, have spent enormous amounts of energy at teaching them about proper documentation, have told them time and again that plagiarism is unacceptable, and is a crime. Rejecting MVP’s early retirement would do nothing for the cause of intellectual honesty.

MVP has done the honorable thing in writing what was in effect a resignation letter to the University President. All it takes now is for the Board of Trustees to see that while the apology was appropriate (in Fr. Nebres’ words), it cannot be enough.  Because in fact, this issue is bigger than itself.

This isn’t just about MVP pretending that he wrote his speech, or us all presuming that he had a speechwriter, or his speechwriters committing the act of plagiarism (for whatever reason including that they allegedly wanted to discredit him). This isn’t just about an Ateneo community discerning what it is that must be done here, given all notions of justice and fairness, owing to all the good things MVP has done for the school (yes, he has done plenty). This isn’t just about celebrating MVP’s admirable and manly act of taking full responsibility (it has even been called a gallant act) and owning mistakes that aren’t technically his own. This isn’t just about taking his side, and pointing a finger at his speechwriters.

Ateneo has to realize that its decision on this matter will affect every classroom from here on in within and beyond the Ateneo. It will have an effect on every student who sits in front of every teacher who spends precious time talking about intellectual honesty, and plagiarism, and the value of using one’s own words in telling one’s own stories. This is about whether or not we tolerate plagiarism as (ex-)members of the Ateneo and as part of the bigger academic community.

It is not surprising of course that the reactions haven’t been all about what’s right and wrong here. Because in mababaw-ang-kaligayahan Philippines, many are already happy with an apology. In kampihan Philippines, we demand that somebody else be reprimanded. In utang-na-loob Philippines, we will condone a mistake because we have benefited from it or from the man who admits to it.

We will focus on the fact that since MVP didn’t write the essay, he therefore didn’t plagiarize, forgetting that he was passing this off as his own speech, no speechwriters in sight. We will forget that someone like MVP should be writing his own speeches, or at least enough of it to know when the thought and sentiment of an essay aren’t his at all. We will make excuses and say he’s a busy man who still agreed to do the commencement speech for two graduation ceremonies, when in fact the right thing to do was for him to say no if he didn’t have enough time and energy to spend on writing a speech.

We will find a way to say it’s ok, you don’t have to go, even when that person has already said goodbye out of shame and embarrassment.

In fact, at this point, the kinder thing to do would be to accept MVP’s resignation and retirement. Maybe strip him of the honorary doctorate degrees, too. And know that he doesn’t have to be part of the Board of Trustees to continue to give to the University – in fact, wouldn’t that be the greatest judge of his character, if he continued to give? We know he has the capacity to do just that, tax cuts on donations to schools notwithstanding.

MVP, after all, is no small man. Which is the reason why he was able to admit to this mistake, but most importantly why we can’t just let him off the hook. Plagiarism is no small thing, and when it happens to such a big man, it becomes larger than (his) life.

It isn’t so much that we want MVP’s head on a plate. It’s the fact that if it weren’t him, that head would already be rolling. Most importantly, it’s the fact that if he gets away with this, no other head could ever be on that plate again.

Response of the Board of Trustees on the issues arising from the Commencement Address of Manuel V. Pangilinan


11 April 2010

The Board of Trustees met on April 11, 2010 to deliberate on the issues arising from the commencement addresses of its Chairman, Mr. Manuel V. Pangilinan, on March 26 & 27, 2010. The Board reviewed the history of the case, from the writing of the speeches to the posting of the blogs, from the response of Mr. Pangilinan to the reply of Fr. Nebres issued on April 3, 2010. It kept in mind as well the concerned statements from faculty, students, staff, administrators and the public at large.

The Board came to the following conclusions:

1.    The Board considers the matter of plagiarism very serious, particularly for an academic institution. It recognizes that Mr. Pangilinan considered this a very serious matter that has caused him deep embarrassment and pain. With him, the Ateneo community has struggled with the issue and engaged in a deep reflection on its own values of honesty and integrity.

2.    In its discussion, the Board kept in mind the Catholic moral tradition which for culpability considers not just the seriousness of the matter but also whether there is full awareness and consent. It recognizes that the matter is serious, but that the plagiarism happened without full awareness on the part of Mr. Pangilinan.

3.    At the same time, the Board acknowledges with deep respect Mr. Pangilinan’s immediate and full acceptance of responsibility and apology for this mistake. This is particularly admirable, because in acting in this manner, he spared others from this responsibility. This is a rare example of humility, selflessness, and leadership in our midst.

4.    The Board accepts Mr. Pangilinan’s apology as the appropriate response to this unfortunate incident.

5.    However, the unanimous decision of the Board is not to accept Mr. Pangilinan’s resignation. It expresses full confidence in his leadership as Chairman.

6.    On the matter of the honorary degree conferred on Mr. Pangilinan, the reasons for the conferment are articulated in the citation. These are his visionary leadership, his love of country and service and commitment to our people, his generous self-giving to our country, the Ateneo de Manila and many other institutions. These remain unchanged.

In conclusion, the Board of Trustees asks Mr. Pangilinan to please reconsider his resignation from the Ateneo Board of Trustees. There is so much to be done, not just for the Ateneo, but for our country and people. His leadership is needed today more than ever.