By Raïssa Robles
43, 53, [Note: She was born 1958. I added wrong.] wrote in a letter dated November 9, 2012:
I urge that he (Sotto) apologize for his unethical, unsanctioned theft of Robert Kennedy’s intellectual property and the intellectual property of all those whose work he has plagiarized.
Kennedy, who wrote her letter on official stationery of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, added:
In addition, I am particularly offended to see a speech my father gave in support of global human rights distorted by Senator Sotto as an argument against the right to contraception. Expanding and protecting access to contraception is a global priority I have promoted for years, and limiting that freedom was in no way the topic of the 1966 Day of Affirmation speech.
Ms. Kennedy is the founding President of the Center and has been a human rights advocate for the last 30 years. She is the former wife of the incumbent New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Her father, the late senator, had delivered his Day of Affirmation speech on June 6, 1966 before the National Union of south African Students in Capetown, South Africa, in support of a person’s right to liberty and the civil rights movement that was beginning to flower then. Kennedy was gunned down almost to the day of that speech two years later on June 5, 1968, just as he had secured the Democratic nomination to run for president.
Philippine fiction author Miguel Syjuco told me that Kennedy’s letter will be part of an ethics complaint that will soon be filed before the Senate Ethics Committee against Senator Sotto.
The letter of Ms. Kennedy therefore understandably starts with the following paragraph:
As President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, I wish to inform you that Senator Vicente C. Sotto III, Majority Leader of the Philippine Senate, flagrantly and deceptively plagiarized Robert Kennedy’s 1966 Day of Affirmation Speech in his remarks to the Philippine Senate on September 5, 2012. Neither Senator Sotto nor anyone associated with him contacted us for permission, and he failed to cite the remarks as those of Robert Kennedy, presenting them instead as his own words.
Syjuco confirmed to me just now that it was he who got in touch with the Robert F. Kennedy Center to obtain their reaction to Sotto’s use of a famous passage from the late Bobby Kennedy’s speech without attribution or authorization.
Syjuco explained that the RFK Center had asked him for an English translation of what Sotto said. Syjuco sent them one.
This is their reply below, signed by the Center’s founding president, Kerry Kennedy:
Sotto himself said on the Senate floor – in reaction to a question posed by Senate president pro tempore Jinggoy Estrada – that Sotto had deliberately uttered his speech wholly in Tagalog in order to avoid any insinuations of plagiarism.
Unfortunately for Sotto, however, a curious netizen quickly uncovered the fact that a portion of his Tagalog speech came from a famous Kennedy speech, but translated into Filipino. Someone else posted the poster below on Facebook detailing side by side what Sotto had copied [NOTE: To enlarge the text, simply press the “CONTROL” and “+” keys at the same time on your keyboard]:
Sotto pointedly denied plagiarizing Kennedy and said the original English passage came from “a friend” whom he has declined to name. He also accused other bloggers, who had earlier complained that he had lifted from them, of being publicity hungry.
But Ms. Kennedy noted in her letter that translating a copied passage into another language was still copying. She said:
The Day of Affirmation speech is an internationally well-known and frequently referenced piece of American rhetoric. The “ripple of hope” line in particular is one of Robert Kennedy’s best known quotes and it is absurd to suggest that Senator Sotto came up with identical remarks himself. Senator Sotto has claimed that because he recited my father’s speech in Tagalog, rather than English, the words are his alone. This is an argument that has no ethical merit.
The Senate leadership, including its ethics committee, has chosen to ignore the charges of plagiarism hurled at its third highest official. This is even though the committee could motu propio (on its own volition) launch investigations on issues that reflect negatively on the body and on any senator.
Plagiarism – that could get students and professors expelled – is apparently not worth the while of the Senate ethics committee.
Let’s see if the committee will simply throw Kennedy’s letter into the dust bin.
Below are samples of Kennedy’s signature and another letter written by her, written on the Center stationery.
You can get in touch directly with the Kennedy Center by going to this page: https://www.facebook.com/RobertFKennedy