Malaya - Double standards - Jose Bayani Baylon

‘Clearly, if Senator Sotto had been a UP student, he would be on his way to becoming an ex-UP student. But I do not think the Senate will take such a drastic step as expelling him.’

THE Republic of the Philippines can claim one reason for being unique: it is the only country in the world – or at least to my knowledge – that has actually two standards – or two flags – in one.

As many Filipinos know - and most foreigners don’t – how our flag is flown communicates a message about the state of affairs we are in.

When we are at peace, the flag must be flown with blue field or portion (there is a technical world among flag makers for that band, I am sure) on top. When we are at war, the flag must be flown with the red portion on top. And this is where the complication arises when the flag is hung vertically and not flown on a mast. When hung the blue field must be to the observer’s left (and the red to the right) in peace time, while it must be to the right of the observer (with the red to the left) in times of war. 

I suppose in this flag issue alone it is evident that ours is a country of double standards!

There is currently a wave of outrage sweeping some netizens, following a series of “lapses of judgment” (a phrase used by Senator Franklin Drilon on Tweeter) by Senator Vicente Sotto 3d, Senate majority leader. The lapses of judgment – note the plural – center around plagiarism – from lifting from a blogger and using her words in a speech on the Senate floor, and then lifting from a speech of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, translating the lifted portion into Filipino, and using that one again in another speech. 

This latest lapse can even be considered worse than the first, if only because the Senator readily admitted that he did it himself. In a news item on bylined by Norman Bordadora, Sotto is cited as saying this: 

“It was texted to me by a friend…I found the idea good. I translated it into Tagalog [Filipino]. So what’s the problem?”

The problem here is that if someone like me had done that as a student in the university, I would have been expelled. That the senator tried to make light of it by asking if Robert Kennedy spoke Tagalog only served to sink him even deeper into this latest “lapse of judgment.”

Which is why I put out a series of posts on my Facebook page. The first post I put said this:

 “If students can be expelled for plagiarism, why can’t a Senator? I am sorry, but Senator Vicente Sotto III has overstepped the boundary too much and too often. If he does not have the decency to quit the Senate - and he obviously doesn’t -- can’t he be expelled?”

This was followed by:

 “Mr. Senate President, don’t you believe Senator Sotto has gone too far? Or is this the old boy’s club at work?”

And then again by:

“To Senate President Enrile and Senators Angara, Arroyo, Cayetano, Cayetano, Defensor-Santiago, Drilon, Escudero, Legarda, Pangilinan, Pimentel, Trillanes and Villar - If I did at UP what your colleague Vicente Sotto 3d is doing on the Senate floor, I would have been expelled. Tell me: are the standards of the Philippine Senate LOWER than those of the University of the Philippines???”

 (Note to Senator Sotto and others: I cited these as my previous posts on Facebook because there is such a thing as self-plagiarism! Check it out.)

Thankfully, one Senator twitted his thoughts, and another called me to express her personal opinion but explained that it was difficult for her to speak out because Senator Sotto and her were on opposite sides of the very issue which is being discussed and which gave rise to the plagiarism “lapses”. Said she: “I respect Senator Sotto’s opinion on RH even if we disagree, but we cannot countenance plagiarism whoever commits it.”

Maybe former UP President Edgardo J. Angara could say something as well?

Clearly, if Senator Sotto had been a UP student, he would be on his way to becoming an ex-UP student. But I do not think the Senate will take such a drastic step as expelling him; however, in the unlikely event that it would, that would not be the end of the world for Senator Sotto; he can still go to law school, pass the Bar and join the Supreme Court where plagiarism appears to be an accepted practice!

Oh well.

I have to admit that I caught myself asking if all the hullabaloo around the so-called lapses were some sort of intellectual snobbery. It may have seemed such in the beginning – hence the counter-attack by the Senator that he is the most cyber-bullied Senator ever – but the fact is this didn’t only happen once, and no staffer could be blamed for the second “lapse of judgment.”

Which leaves us with a choice: in the age of Daang Matuwid which has seen a Chief Justice impeached, do we accept a double standard on an issue such as this? Or do we omit, delete or edit out whatever is plagiarized and whoever did the plagiarism? 

What does the Senate of the Philippines say?