At this point in time, everybody has an opinion about these unlikely events. This must include everything that transpired from the moment the senator gave an emphatic speech ending in a heart-wringing tear wrenching note on the sacred halls of legislature ...down to the shocked reaction of the public when certain detail about that masterpiece of oration was exposed.
Apparently chunks of the emotionally-charged elocution piece pointing to the dangers of the pill to the lives of both women and the children that they will decide to bear have been ripped off someone else's blog. Aray ko!
Nay, as the day progressed, as many as five blogs have been attributed to what constituted as evidence to the core argument of the esteemed lawmaker in making his stand about the Reproductive Health Bill. Aray ko, Part 2! Mash-up pala!
So by the end of the day, the conclusion from all this fiasco is that the Senator gave a speech that was patchwork of excerpts from a spectrum of blogs in the internet without acknowledging the sources --- and, worse, denying the conscious or accidental act of plagiarism.
Yes, that has been the buzzword for quite some time in this country: plagiarism.
That was the curse that smacked Manny Pangilinan in a speech he gave at the Ateneo University thereby warranting his honorable act by admitting the error and resigning from his position in the University.
That was also the same accusation hurled to a Supreme Court Justice eliciting all sorts of reactions including demands for his impeachment because he has lost his moral authority to hold such a position in a major branch of government.
Any which way you look at it --- regardless of language and analysis of syntax --- plagiarism is theft. It is literally ripping off somebody and claiming not only his thoughts but also his words as your own. There is nothing mind-boggling or controversial or debatable about that. Di ba?
However the Majority Floor Leader of the Philippine Senate denied the accusation hurled at him. The accusing finger came from Sarah Pope, a writer whose blog was entitled The Healthy Home Economist.
What made matters bad to worse was the dismissive statement given by the Filipino legislator by poo-pooing the blogger. His seemingly irritated (and somewhat interpreted as arrogant) statement insinuated that bloggers are writers not to be taken seriously. His implication that Ms. Pope was "just a blogger" suggested that such writers generally do not count in the hierarchy of importance of much greater creatures in the universe such as .... uh, ok, Philippine Senators.
Uhm: epic fail! Your honor, EPIC FAIL TALAGA!
In one sweeping gesture, the Senator succeeded in earning the ire if not irritation of all the bloggers in the net universe --- regardless of degree of importance or sphere of influence.
The belittling of bloggers may have been your proverbial knee jerk reaction or defense mechanism --- as if to emphasize that he, a senator, will not refer to a mere blogger in any utterance delivered in such august halls. After all, this was not your run-of-the-mill speech hurled at Commencement Exercises or during the opening of a skin care clinic. This was the speech condemning the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill meant to excite "the angels from heavens above and the demons down under the sea"( taken from Edgar Allan Poe's poem Annabel Lee, thus properly accredited and not carelessly lifted).
Unfortunately this pambabale-wala statement backfired when his Chief of Staff admitted to Ms. Pope that indeed her blog was used as reference. But wait: before she gets all fired up, let it be known that her work was somehow "accidentally" used verbatim in order to emphasize pertinent points regarding health dangers in the use of the pill. It was not her blog but just her references. But they used her words anyway ... so, whatever. Basta like that.
According to the said officer of the senator's staff, the use of the blog was only centered on the theories given by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride on the possible adverse reaction of birth control pills. In other words, it was not Miss Pope who was being quoted --- but only her reference. Kaya manahimik na lang siya.
But the effort to reword Miss Pope's prose --- or even acknowledge the use of her as a writer was conveniently forgotten, omitted or swept under some imaginary rug because --- after all, she was just a blogger.
That sort of argument did not hold water. Hoping that the good senator will be absolved not only from the ire of Miss Pope but also the public's indignation for intellectual dishonesty, the alleged apology sent to the American blogger did more harm than good.
The letter did not only acknowledge the use of Ms. Pope's blog (O, hayun naman pala, eh. Alam ba yan ni Sen?) but also further belittled the writer implying that she was overreacting and that this was a Philippine senator using her references and that she should be proud and not offended. Reading that apology requires a double and even a triple take: totoo ba yon? Did he really write that? The point of the matter is that (again) arrogance rather than humility to admit human fallibility took priority.
For instance, to somewhat imply: "What else do you want? Nag-sorry na nga kami sa kayo, eh" does not sound like an apology at all. It sounds more like pikon-talo.
And let's face it, Guys: Philippine senator or not, the rules are clear as Ms. Pope pointed out. Intellectual dishonesty is still theft any which way you look at it. Translated into the vernacular: Weno ngayon kung nagtatrabaho ka para sa isang senador!? Does that exempt you from being accused of plagiarism? Ano ka? Sinusuwerte?!
We can only hope that the Senator knows everything happening not even behind him ... but under his nose and right in his Senate office. One easy conclusion any rational being would obtain is that the senator may indeed be in much deeper trouble without his knowing it.
Whether or not he gave a seal of approval to that apology letter to Miss Pope is something that requires verification. If he did --- uhm, oh well. ( I can only scream Epic Fail twice.)
But if he did not --- uhm, a suggestion of a very urgent staff meeting should be in utmost order if not imperative. For there are still those who would want to believe that the letter sent to Miss Pope did not have the Senator's foreknowledge much less his consent.
It is because after reading that letter, one no longer wonders why the Senator mouths such speeches researched, prepared and written by his staff.
Whether the senator unwittingly walked into this booby trap is something he must clarify somewhere in the course of his political history. Otherwise, he takes the risk of being remembered not for his tearful speech but for the perfidy that followed.
If he should condone his Chief of Staff saying that "blogs are meant to be shared" and that anything floated in the internet is devoid of copyright laws, then the Senator should really call for a staff meeting immediately right after his noontime show. Pronto! By allowing such statements to slide off his back, he will not only earn the ire of one very peeved Ms. Pope but an entire legion of bloggers who will be out to prove him and his people wrong.
In the process, what will be placed in question is the credibility not only of his Chief of Staff ... but the integrity of he who holds position in that elected office. Intellectual property and respect for the thoughts, ideas and writings of others is an indication not only of education ...but basic decency in a civilized and literate society.
But then we must see this over and above and beyond a mere series of unfortunate if not ridiculous incidents. After a while, what transpired --- from the heart-tugging speech at the senate --- down to the moments of humiliating exposure that parts of that speech were ripped off blogs --- suggest something much deeper than your usual Philippine political circus.
What do these events prove about the importance of moral authority?
Indeed, do we live in an age when the end ultimately justifies the bloody means? In trying to emphasize, underline and even magnify a point as crucial as the health of women and children, is there a license somewhere along the way to indulge in little excursions in intellectual dishonesty defended through some sort of moral ambiguity?
A supporter of the Senator pointed out that one bad event does not make a person completely bad. She insisted that this may have been an honest mistake --- and that this collective condemnation is only being fanned by the the Pro-RH Bill advocates who would love to clobber the Majority Floor Leader to smithereens in order to prove their own point.
There is great truth in that. But then everything still boils down to basics.
We wish we could be as charitable in assessing the moral magnitude of our leaders to equate them with Calpurnia who was beyond reproach. Nowadays, Filipinos elect their officials based on their humanity ...and even celebrate their fallibility and vulnerability as signs of pagpapakatotoo.
Unfortunately pagpapakatotoo is not necessarily kakayahan.
The Senator's supporter is correct in saying that it is so easy to make a big deal out of this event to discredit everything that he has done through his years in public office. But that is not the way people will see it. That is not the way the larger number of people think --- not unless you are a diehard supporter. Whether the Senator was aware of the error or not (which I honestly think he was not aware of the sordid details), people will still judge him for being, as Ms. Pope wrote, a thief who is a thief who is a thief.
And that is what will be remembered ... not the name nor the line of reasoning of his trusted Chief of Staff meant to defend the senator's integrity.
Ms. Pope also apologized to Filipino women for what she felt was a misinterpretation of her writings. Apparently, Ms. Pope was Pro-Choice and she would not stand for others to use what she wrote precisely for crusades that she was vehemently against. So there. Another epic fail.
To think that all this could have been settled with just a simple apology and clarification. Just like that. But, of course, such a gesture would require largess and humility and real pagpapakatotoo. Maybe that is indeed asking for too much.