Sarah, Tito and the culture of plagiarism

Plagiarism has never been fully discussed in Philippine society as opposed to corporal punishment for robbery or broad day light thief. Maybe because plagiarism is not so much of an issue which impinge on civil liberties and social order as opposed to robbery or thief, fraud perhaps? These four crimes however are serious as they are grave, no matter how one justifies it. Like robbery, thief and fraud, plagiarism is unacceptable. No civil society can ever exist if all semblances of order and propriety are based on the very concept of stealing. For the record, no one is convicted of the crime of plagiarism in the Philippines and that what makes this unfortunate practice, an ingrained culture.

Sarah Pope of The Healthy Home Economist

I say it is culturally driven, this plagiarism, because even when our students go to school, they commit ‘copy and paste’ on projects, term papers, reflections and even thesis. Though many schools, ideally are punishing students who were caught red handed on the charges of plagiarism, not much has been ingrained in the psyche of a Filipino, as a responsible person that plagiarism is a crime. A crime that stands similar to those people who steal money, snatched a bag, mobile phones and rob a bank. Unlike robbery, plagiarism is not obvious until proven otherwise. It can be kept hidden for years until someone resourceful enough will dig into it and run through how citations were garnered and whether appropriate attributions are made for the source of the idea, words, sentences, paragraphs and lines, even of the pages of the book.

The easiest way to plagiarize someone’s work is to just lift words and sentences absent-mindedly without due recognition of the source, worse, they claimed it to be theirs or someone else. In schools, this is elementary ‘cut and paste’ or ‘copy and paste’ technique most students employ when they are asked to write something. Speeches also are not an exception to this culture.

A portrait of Senator Tito Sotto III

As eloquent we would want to aspire in our lives when we speak in public, we wanted to research widely on a topic we wanted to talk about and impart salient points and highlights argument. Such is our research made it easy now when in the advent of the internet, one need not go to the library to scamper for the best authored book, go to the index card catalogue or access the computerized library inventory to do research. We have the resources right on our fingertips and we are in the comforts of our office. Easy, isn’t it? Easy access, easy research and this is today. In the past, speechwriters and researchers need to stay long hours in the library trying to piece together a good speech backed with the aid of the librarian, with anecdotes, quotes and written studies on a particular topic. The difference of then and now, is accessibility and here lies our responsibility of our actions. Because it is easy to access information, we thought we can lift them up from wherever in the millions of websites all over the world, piece it together, weave it, stir it, spice it a bit and your speech is ready, sans the acknowledgment of the source. In the past, comparatively speaking, because it is harder to do research and most certainly, you end up writing in index cards for your best quotes or anecdotes, you certainly will remember who your sources are and because you remember, you don’t forget to cite your sources.

 Culture of plagiarism

This thesis do not generalized the entire Filipino people and its outstanding contribution to research, scientific methodologies and search for new academic frontier. This culture, as I believed pervade through our society is a result of the absence of critical thinking and analysis in our educational system as well as in the demands of our work.

While many schools strived harder to eliminate plagiarism, many students are caught red-handed and thus punished. It is not only students who dwell in the ‘cut and paste’ culture in our system, some teachers are also guilty of the crime of ‘cut and paste’. I have seen so many instances, from the graduate school to university to secondary and elementary, the culture of ‘cut and paste’ even is manifestly seen in homes. When busy parents, in an effort to help their children on research requirements or perhaps, writing speeches, they have the propensity to search the internet, do the fastest ‘cut and paste’ then print. This unfortunate practice has now reached even to the most common places and instances.

‘Cut and paste’ culture even can be gleaned on twitter, when most followers do not use ‘retweet’ instead, ‘cut and paste’ tweets and tweeted it as new, fresh and becomes their own. The original source of the idea in the tweet has not been appropriately tagged or mentioned. The most glaring crime scene for the ‘cut and paste’ culture can be found nowhere but twitter. Facebook, however is a different social media scenario. Because of the widely used ‘share’ in Facebook, users and friends easily click on this to post on their timeline, ideally, tagging the source. However, there were instances too that Facebook users do the ‘cut and paste’ mentality when the status post of friends looks appealing, touching and sincere, sans the tagging part.

In recent plagiarism history in the country, top CEO Manny Pangilinan plagiarized in his speech in the Ateneo de Manila University. Supreme Court Justice Mariano del Castillo plagiarized in his decision on a landmark case of Vinuya, where he is the ponente. Now, Senator Tito Sotto plagiarized in his turno en contra speech on the RH Bill in the Senate, unfortunately, citing a blogger who is far and away, in the USA. Sarah Pope, the health blogger whom the good senator has lifted out words for his anti-RH Bill speech even admitted she has not set foot in the Philippines and yet, her blog is now generating traffic from the Philippines. The sad twist in del Castillo, Sotto and Pope is that Del Castillo plagiarized a decision affecting comfort women while Sotto plagiarizes Pope in his stand against the RH Bill, ironically using a woman’s blog, from a woman’s scientific work against Filipino women.

The internet and the small world

The advent of the internet made the world shrink, figuratively. One can easily access data or resources from the internet anytime, anywhere and on virtually, any topic. Internet search engines like Google can generate topics related to any given search and usually runs in millions. These however, have to be ferreted out and read through carefully.

The Healthy Home Economist of Sarah Pope, like our blogs and most new sites on the internet, have social network linking icons. Like my blog, Journeys and Travels, I used social media icons for sharing purposes and so, there is facebook, twitter, stumble upon, digg, email, pinterest and others. Similarly, most blogs have evolved too as social media emerges as a new paradigm in the world of information. Most blogs now have grown from entirely personal ones to niches, like travel, health, law, medicine, gadgets, beauty, fashion, photography and others. These niches are what made blogs searchable on the internet. This is how the ‘cut and paste’ culture can affect blogs, even if the writer is not of the same country. Because blogs and posts from blogs are searchable on the internet, the chances of it getting to the results of the search engines is high as opposed to writing it in a book, off-line, printed and arranged meticulously in the library shelf.

The internet is the virtual library now and unlike libraries, it has no guard, no librarians and no recording how much information you get from it, which kind of data you get it and for which those materials are to be used for. Here lies the difference: intellectual honesty.

Absence of intellectual honesty results in the continuing culture of plagiarism no matter how hard we catch the ‘cut and paste’ people in schools and offices. An investment on critical thinking ideally will enable one to enhance intellectual honesty. This however may be our reality but in the world today, it is akin to finding truffles in a wide open space: you may find one intellectually honest person but you will spend more time digging the ground.

Cite your sources

Are there hard and fast rule in borrowing ideas, words, quotes, sentences and paragraphs from authors and writers? There is one, which I know by heart. Cite your sources! This one is very basic in all aspects of social research. From English, to data analysis, to blogging and to speech writing, one must, at all times, cite their sources.

Is there harm in borrowing ideas? Nothing which I can think of as long as, again, you cite your sources and acknowledged them. The harm happens when you lift someone’s work and claim it as someone else, worse, from a book you have not been able to see and read entirely.

Lamentably, because of the lack of material time, any researcher or speechwriter for that matter will just lift passages of any writings, book, scientific studies and scholarly work than spending time reading and understanding the sources. Ideally, acknowledgment of sources, authors and works should have been primarily obtained and appropriately cited however, as a culture of plagiarism manages to rob anyone of critical thinking, this unfortunate events happened. And as Sarah wrote it, “A thief is a thief, Mr. Senator.”

Note: Photo credits are linked directly to source.

Categories: Issues and Perspectives | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Sarah, Tito and the culture of plagiarism

  1. I admired your courage Doc Wendz in writing this article about Plagiarism. Hats off to you. :-)…I hope that Philippine Culture now will consider Plagiarism as a serious offense and consider as a crime……..Let us go back to our elementary principle….do your assignment sincerely and honestly. Because honesty is still the BEST POLICY UP TO THESE DAYS.

    Just quote the source of the author of the phrases or articles and even pictures and photos. By quoting the source, that’s RESPECT. And that’s the basic rule.

    Even in spurring ideas and adopted it by someone. That someone don’t even bothered to acknowledge the one who gave him/her that idea…….

    It happen also in the Corporate World……and that still in a form of Plagiarism.

    This is an eye opener to everyone…….

  2. gretchen

    overtime and again alot of people steals other peoples’ ideas without acknowledging its not his/her own so to speak… i want to believe that tito sotto reads the topic or article which ms. sarah told the public … i am not pro tito sotto or pro sarah but in fairness he must have quoted her words without recognizing her work but taking it in as his … kasi kahit sino ginagawa iyan copy and paste without authorization from the original … though there are ethics to follow, still its happening… let it be known to the public that its harmful quoting other peoples’ work coz if it happened to me ill be very vocal about it that this a certain person is stealing my idea(s) or words or works … but still people do it all the time but most of the time without conscious they are stealing already … well thats my stand on this issue … all tito sotto have to do is acknowledge that he read ms. sarah quoted issue, and must acknowledged that he is only quoting another persons words and not of his own … i think he did it na … heres simple and tried and tested for so long …. do not do unto others what u dont want others do unto u … oh di ba???

    • What I am lamenting on this post Gretchen is our inability to train our students young and old, to value intellectual honesty above all else. Its one of the unfortunate events in this debate that plagiarism has to be tackled too and I am not one who condones it.

  3. Since I am new in blogging…One thing from many which my daughter taught me is…once I get picture or said by with the source. it’s one way of sharing respect to the one who posted it. I am no writer by profession but in fashion it’s still the same..never copy anyone’s designs… 😀
    Good thing you brought up this thing…another lesson to learn… 😀

  4. Hi! Thanks for your blog entry! You’re right. From whatever perspective Sotto’s camp’s reasoning is viewed, everything still boils down to the fact that such intellectual theft can and will never become acceptable. If there’s one positive thing though that came out of this infamous incident it is that a good number of people from the Philippines and beyond have become more aware of the issue. It just remains unfortunate that the Sotto camp remains indignant, causing themselves further destruction. Thanks for reading my article! May I share it with your readers here as well?:


    • Sure maam, you are free to share your article on Rappler here on my blog too. I agree with your points too as your insights enlighten me further to view plagiarism.

      It remains unfortunate that Sen. Sotto becomes now the face of plagiarism in the highest office in the land, after Justice Del Castillo too. That had me think that in this, we are betrayed by their sheer intellectual dishonesty and worse, he is elected and represents the Filipino people and our nation.

      Thanks for sharing your insights here on my blog Maam. I wish you all the best and wishing you most especially on your pursuits for a PhD in Mahidol University. 🙂

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