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Holding Sotto Accountable for Plagiarism is Not a Distraction


“Marunong pala managalog si Kennedy, ah!”


A common, probably the only mildly-reasonable, criticism of the public condemnation of Senator Tito Sotto’s pathological penchant for plagiarism is that it distracts from the issues—mainly the reproductive health bill. Sotto himself has taken this route to defend himself against the accusations, saying that his critics could not answer his unimpeachable points, so they’ve resorted to “cyber-bullying.” He challenged his opponents with an aphorism (which I’m sure he’d never claim to be original), to shoot the message, not the messenger.

Of course, if his intellectual honesty and credibility were irrelevant to the interests of the Filipino people, then his excuses would be valid. It is, however, not the case that calling Sotto out on plagiarism is an argumentum ad hominem fallacy.

Ad hominem or “to the man” argumentation is not fallacious if it is not taken to refute “the man’s” positions and if the subject is “the man’s” character itself. In the case of Sotto’s plagiarism, of course his intellectual dishonesty does not affect the credibility of his case against the RH Bill.

But, let’s first take Sotto’s claim on face value. Is it indeed true that nobody at all has even tried to rebut Sotto’s claims during his long-winded turno en contra speeches that spanned four parts? No.

On this website alone, we have exposed Sotto’s use of a non-peer-reviewed quack, Natasha Campbell-McBride, to claim that contraceptives are dangerous. We’ve shown that Sotto’s Texas sharpshooter-ed statistics themselves show even greater maternal mortality rates than the pro-RH camp’s “11 maternal deaths a day” claim. We’ve shown how Sotto quote-mined even his attributed literature to misinform the public regarding contraceptives. We’ve shown that the contraceptives Sotto’s wife supposedly took that killed their first-born son did not even exist when he said they did.

With that out of the way, we can tackle whether or not it is true that calling Sotto out on plagiarism distracts from the RH Bill.

Given the long years the RH Bill has been dragged on, there really are no new arguments for or against it. Well, Sotto’s introduction of anti-vaccination quacks to the mix was a breath of fresh air, but the core arguments are all stale and worn out: that contraceptives are not essential medicines, that contraceptives don’t even work, that contraceptives are poison, that contraceptives cause abortion, that poverty is not related to overpopulation, that the RH Bill is redundant, that the RH Bill removes freedom of choice, and that the RH Bill is against God.

Calling out Sotto on plagiarism is not a distraction from the RH Bill discussion because there’s no RH Bill discussion to distract from. The debates are over.

All that is left now is to vote on the RH Bill. The anti-RH camp claims they have the numbers, but they have repeatedly, successfully, and frustratingly delayed deliberations on the bill. These are not the actions of a confident majority bloc. These are the actions of cowards and dishonest politicians kowtowing to the Vatican-led Roman Catholic Church.

The issue of Sotto’s plagiarism is another matter entirely apart from the RH Bill. To that extent, I can agree. But it is not a distraction. Sotto’s unscrupulousness is in itself worthy of contempt, condemnation, and punishment.

Sotto plagiarized Sarah Pope, New York University, Marlon Ramirez, Feminists for Choice, The Truth of Contraceptives, and most recently, the late New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He then lied about doing so, in the case of Sarah Pope and in the case of Kennedy.

Greater men have been felled for less flagrant failures of integrity.

The Senate is supposed to be where the best of our society gathers to decide on the rules we all must live by. Our senators are styled “honorable” because that is what we expect them to be. What Sotto has done with his office as senator is not honorable by any stretch of the imagination. No less than the Senate President, Juan Ponce Enrile, defended the plagiarism of Sotto, his fellow anti-RH filibusterer. That the Senate has coddled this serial liar and plagiarist by failing to sanction him humiliates the entire institution and belies any such honor it claims to possess.


Image from Bandila’s stream of their Sotto interview

Posted in Politics, RH BillComments (2)

Missing the Point By a Mile

A false notion of secularism is that it prohibits any form of public religious expression. At least that much I can agree with on John Pesebre’s recent article. Where he chooses to go from there, however, is an entirely different train wreck.

First and foremost, he states that Red’s recent article exhibits the false notion stated above. Nowhere in the article was it stated that the act was an outright violation of the separation of church and state. All it did was express valid concern over how this prayer was done in poor taste.

Let it be clear that we know how secularism does not prohibit any form of public religious expression. If we’re going to delve strictly into legal terms–“No law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”–there was no violation as no laws were made that pass the criteria for one. As some would incessantly insist, it would appear to be “just another prayer”. Well it would not have been a problem if our dear senator had said the prayer in his bed, or with his family, or before his meal, or before eating his family in bed. Heck, he could have even prayed in senate on his own and you wouldn’t have heard as much as a squeak from us. The clincher, however, is how the obviously Christian prayer was broadcast on a pedestal that is the highest legislative office of a country to its pluralistic people. If that does not send a message of Christianity dominating as the pseudo-official state religion, then I don’t know what does.

In the end, Pesebre even suggests that we just let it go, arguing that there are many more important things to speak up about. True, there are many other important things that we could speak up about, but that in no way stops us from speaking up about something seemingly small in society that we find wanting correction. Non-participation would be a valid option in most cases, but this is the Senate we’re talking about, and unless you’re willing to boycott the national facade that we call a democracy, I would suggest you speak up when there’s something you want to change about it. And it’s not like it will take tons of effort to fix this one problem. Pesebre’s suggestion of spending effort on other things implies that not praying would take lots of time away from other more important things, when the truth is all that has to be done by each senator to solve the problem of expressing religious favoritism during government time is not praying.

There are some of us who are sick and tired of being told to just deal with it, as if it was the most harmless thing in the world. It gets even worse when we see our taxes paying for time wasted on fancy words that don’t work. Yes, our taxes. Session time is secular time is precious time. And I can’t think of a worse way to defend secularism than to argue in favor of accommodating all forms of religious expression altogether. If the members of senate were diverse enough to belong to 10 different religious sects, I wonder how many would still be in favor of hearing each and every one of their prayers before settling down to finally do what their constituents are actually paying them to do.

In a nutshell, we contend that there should be no prayers or sectarian practices in any government-sponsored event. Whether or not this is legal is open to much discussion, but it is clearly an ideal that some of us seek to achieve, not only for our wish that religious influence in government affairs be lessened, but also for the simple courtesy of being considerate to people of other (or no) faith when engaging matters concerning our common government. If you say that you’re going to talk about something that concerns all of us, don’t go ahead and talk about something that doesn’t concern all of us. That is, unless you’re passive-aggressively hinting that we don’t matter. But c’mon, senators wouldn’t do that.

Would they?



[Image from:]

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Stop the Witch Hunt of RH Bill Advocates


Sen. Vicente Sotto’s interpellation of the RH Bill at the Senate has deteriorated into a witch-hunt of organizations supporting the bill that, in his opinion, have an agenda to legalize or promote abortion in the Philippines. The organizations that he has named so far are the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP), Likhaan Center for Women’s Health (Likhaan), the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), and the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP). More could follow as the senator has asked for a list of all organizations that have expressed support for the bill.

Instead of arguing about the content of the RH Bill, Sen. Sotto has shifted to attacking advocates.

This crude antic is an implied admission of weakness in conducting a reasoned and respectful debate with fellow senators who are, in the final analysis, the authors and sponsors of the measure. Civil society organizations (CSOs) are formally invited to public hearings on proposed laws and asked to present and argue their position. This engagement of CSOs is a key feature of democracy, of governance through dialogue. Unfairly using the immense powers of the Senate to attack CSOs for their different points of view is the act of a bully and violates the tenet of responsive governance.

Some RH Bill advocates—like the organizations maligned by Sen. Sotto—are truly concerned about the harm to women and their families of unsafe abortion. Because of our work in very poor urban and rural communities, we know firsthand of women who have suffered severe complications—hemorrhage, infection and perforated bowels—some of whom survived, while others died. We know of women survivors who were subjected to verbal abuse, maltreatment, and neglect in hospitals by the medical people who were supposed to help them. We know too that the reasons that push women to have an abortion are desperate, that the decision to have an abortion is never easy, and that if women could prevent abortion, they would.

Beyond the RH Bill, we stand for openly and soberly discussing the impact of abortion in the Philippines and finding humane and workable solutions. Last time we heard it, discussing abortion is legal in this country. A century of criminalizing abortion has not stopped its widespread use, but only made it dangerous.

The RH Bill has at least three features that can substantially reduce abortions without even changing the law. Family planning—whether through natural or artificial methods—can address the root of abortion, unintended pregnancy, by enabling women and couples to plan the timing, spacing and number of pregnancies. Post-abortion care, including medication, surgery and counseling, can save women’s lives, preserve their health, and help them to use family planning that will prevent repeat abortions. School-based sexuality and RH education can address peer pressure and sexual coercion and violence, delay sexual experimentation, and promote responsible behavior so that unintended pregnancies are reduced.

Those who obstruct family planning while exulting in the Philippines’ extreme anti-abortion law—which has no exception even when a woman’s life is in danger—are morally responsible for the vicious cycle of unintended pregnancy and abortion that continues to kill and maim masses of women. If government-supported measures to reduce abortion or to treat and counsel women with post-abortion complications are denied, where else could women go? What else could women do?

Sen. Sotto, if he has a modicum of sympathy for women, should find solutions to the problem of abortion instead of maligning organizations that support RH. If he is against RH, what is he for?

Anyone concerned about the health of women and the families that they care for will find it unconscionable to object to the RH Bill. If Sen. Sotto is worried that the bill will legalize abortion, then he needs to simply study the text and accept or reject it based on what he actually reads, not on what he reads of advocates’ intentions.

Released 7 September 2011 by:

Roberto Ador
Executive Director,
Family Planning Organization of the Philippines

Junice D. Melgar
Executive Director,
Likhaan Center for Women’s Health

Sylvia Estrada Claudio
Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights

Elizabeth Angsioco
Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines

For further information, contact: Joy Salgado • Likhaan Center for Women’s Health • 926-6230 • 411-3151

Image from

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Your Face is a Heavily Funded PR Conspiracy

It’s a miracle any of us have been posting on the site recently, considering how little sleep we’ve gotten these past few days. It’s been all cardboard and pens and scissors and tarps and lots and lots and lots of tape for us recently as a handful of us scrambled to create 7 miniature SUVs and placards from scratch in a single night. While some ended up falling unconscious for an hour or two, most had foregone sleep entirely. We be badass.

So, little did others know that while the Freethinkers stood with the rest of Bantay Bishop outside the Senate gates last Wednesday morning, greeting the bishops and Senators as they cruised in for the PCSO hearing, we were running on the barest minimum of energy, half-thinking of the Pajero 7, half-thinking of random mattresses and Jollibee Breakfast Joys. Fortunately, our determination kept us from keeling over.

Moreover, we did this despite our day jobs and other priorities. And all the materials were either from our personal belongings, borrowed, or bought using cash pooled from our members and friends. In the midst of our criticizing an issue regarding certain people getting grossly undeserved funds that could have gone to deserving citizens, it is highly ironic that we would be accused of enjoying this very form of corruption due to some bizarre conspiracy theory. Unlike other people, we helped ourselves.

None of us would have done this because we were told or paid to. We didn’t walk away from this event with extra cash in our pockets or pats on the back from some greasy bigwig. Instead, we headed off for the jobs and deadlines we had put on hold, for a place to finally get some grub and, for a lucky few,  for our homes where we fell unconscious on our beds. And we’d do all of this all over again if (and when) we have to.

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We Did It

We have read with deep dismay the sentiments of Senator Miriam Santiago regarding the recent Senate investigation hearing on the bishops who received Pajeros (oh, sorry, SUVs— for some strange reason the distinction has become vitally important) during the Arroyo administration. We were particularly saddened by the following:

Q: To clarify, you mentioned that there are people behind the “Pajero bishops” propaganda?

A: That’s right. The public will not spontaneously call the issue “Pajero bishops” if someone had not put that thought into their heads. And if someone can make this basic unintelligible mistake as calling the SUVs Pajeros when none is a Pajero at all, then that can only mean that perhaps a PR practitioner designed this entire program. We’re barking up the wrong tree. We are only talking 7 million, and there is even a constitutional issue involved, maybe it’s correctly appropriated or not—as we said, we have to wait for the Supreme Court.

Why the emphasis on 7 million pesos when there are billions that on the surface were apparently abused and wasted by these officials? Why are we being led this path? Who is manipulating the scenarios? They are trying to cover up bigger multibillion peso anomalies in the PCSO and PAGCOR, and they have conveniently found a scapegoat in the CBCP because, you know, it makes a sensational headline.

I feel outraged, and I really feel that there is an air of final desperation about our government if people who have not been elected can feel free-despite the installation of a new administration based on its anti-graft platform—to steal billions of pesos from the people’s money.

I understand that there is a certain PR practitioner has been going the rounds at least in the print media, emphasizing the bishop controversy. That is my understanding. I haven’t had time to check it out. Of course he is free. That is a very legitimate profession. But if he is purposely maligning other sectors so as to derail the Blue Ribbon investigation on the PCSO anomalies, then it already becomes a criminal effort to cover up obstruction of justice.

Q: Can you name this person?

A: No, not yet. I’m just wondering why we are spending so much time and effort on 7 million pesos when there are billion-peso anomalies involved. And why all of a sudden when I’m coming to my workplace am I assaulted by this group who are all against a group of people under investigation without even having heard their side. They could have just sat here and listened first and then go out there and start waving their placards up and down.

We say dismay because up until now we have had quite a lot of respect for Senator Santiago, who has in the past campaigned against corruption and general skullduggery at great cost to her personal and political life. It has also been refreshing and often entertaining to have a politician unafraid to speak her mind in public, particularly about things most others might feel it impolite to discuss.

Therefore it is with all due respect that we say this, in the hopes that it may clarify matters and lay her many suspicions about the action to rest:

Dear Honorable Senator — we, the Filipino Freethinkers, are the people behind this. We were the ones who made the cardboard Pajeros and rode them in bishop’s attire. It was we, along with fellow like-minded groups who banded with us to form a single movement, who showed our ire towards this glaring violation of Church-State separation the day of the Senate hearings. We are not PR practitioners. We are a grassroots movement dedicated to advocating reason, science, and secularism.

It was not, and never will be, our intention to cover up other bigger issues of corruption. We remain a relatively small group with limited resources, and as such we are simply focusing on the bishops’ fault in this case, because it is and always has been our niche to address violations of secularism, and of late it has been Catholic Bishops who have been the most prominent offenders.

If you take a look at our website you would see that we have indeed been listening very carefully to what the bishops have had to say for quite some time now, and we believe that their continued wrongdoings are blatant enough that ordinary citizens like ourselves — the ‘public’ you seemed to have casually dismissed early on in your statement — have good cause to call them out for it.

Ultimately, while we are flattered that you think our recent action looked fabulously expensive enough that it must have required some shadowy bogeyman funding everything, the hats were made with corrugated plastic, the SUV costumes with cartons and printed tarps, and the robes were all borrowed soutanas. About a dozen of us spent the sleepless night before putting them all together with duct tape.

We did it, Senator Santiago. We did it, and unlike a lot of other people as of late, we are certainly not sorry for what we have done.


The Filipino Freethinkers

(Image from Orkut Plus)

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