Lawyer asks Senate to junk ethics case vs Sotto on plagiarism raps

ELECTION lawyer Romulo Macalintal submitted an opposition letter on the ethics complaint filed against Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III by academicians and bloggers.

Macalinta in his three page opposition letter dated November 14, 2012, said that the speeches of Sotto on the controversial Reproductive Health bill are protected by the 1987 Constitution under Article VI, Section 11.

“The last sentence of Article VI, Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution provides that “No member (of the legislature) shall be questioned nor be held liable in any other place for any speech or debate in the Congress or in any committee thereof,” Macalintal quoting the provision of the law.

Macalintal said that this provision of our Constitution demonstrates one of the traits of a democratic society wherein lawmakers are allowed to engage into public argument and debate on bills which are pending before them, without fear of question or sanction by third persons.

“Thus, understanding the innate sensitivity and importance of free and unimpeded deliberation in Congress, the Constitution – the Supreme Law of the land – stepped in to shield communication and speeches of legislators from penalty,” he explained.

Therefore, he said, if that is the case, then there is absolutely no basis to file a complaint against Senator Sotto, whether it be before the courts, the Senate committee on Ethics and Privileges, or any other tribunal.

Last Tuesday, thirty seven individuals, mostly academicians and bloggers, filed an ethics complaint against Sotto over plagiarized speeches on Reproductive Health bill in violation of Section 193 of Republic Act 8293 otherwise known as the Intellectual Property Code of Philippines, explicitly provides that “books, pamphlets, articles and other writings” shall be protected from the moment of their creation.

The 22-page complaint was filed before the Senate Ethics and Privileges Committee chaired by Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano by the academicians and bloggers led by Dr. Sylvia Estrada-Claudio. 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.

“There is nothing in his speeches tending to show that he claimed “authorship” of the alleged plagiarized items. As matter of fact, Sotto admitted that main source of his speeches and was quoted in news articles stating: “I never said they are mine. I never said I own them.”

He concluded in the letter that there more pressing and important matters that the Senate needs to attend to rather than to give attention to the complaint.

“Thus, I respectfully believe that it would be such a disservice to the Filipino people, if issues such as alleged plagiarism of Senator Sotto would be given supreme priority,” he concluded.

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