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Kennedy tells Sotto: Apologize!

Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III (NPPA Images)

Will he apologize this time?

Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late US senator Robert F. Kennedy, has released a letter condemning Sen. Tito Sotto for plagiarizing her father's 1966 Day of Affirmation Speech in remarks against the RH Bill on the Senate floor last September 5, 2012.

Kennedy said, "Neither Senator Sotto nor anyone associated with him contacted us (Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights) for permission, and he failed to cite the remarks as those of Robert Kennedy, presenting them instead as his own words."

Sotto, who is also a noontime TV show host and comedian, had denied plagiarizing Kennedy's speech, recalling that the passage he mentioned in his speech came "from a friend." Sotto delivered the passages in Tagalog, apparently to conceal the plagiarism. But Kennedy said that such a translation was still unauthorized copying.

"The Day of Affirmation speech is an internationally well-known and frequently referenced piece of American rhetoric," Kennedy further said in the letter. "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."

In an exclusive by journalist Raissa Robles published in her blog on Saturday, November 10, Kennedy said in her letter, "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."

She added: "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."

In this letter dated November 9, 2012, Kennedy urged Sotto to apologize. "I urge that he (Sotto) apologize for this unethical, unsanctioned theft of Robert Kennedy's intellectual property and the intellectual property of all those he plagiarized."

Unified complaint coming

Three other US-based bloggers, Peter C. Engelman, Janice Formichella, and Sarah Couture Pope, are also set to file a complaint against Sotto for plagiarizing their work before the Senate Ethics Committee, chaired by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano. According to fiction author Miguel Syjuco, Robles's blog reported, Kennedy's letter will be part of this unified complaint. Syjuco was the one who contacted Kennedy to get her reaction on Sotto's use of the Kennedy speech.

As such, Sotto seems to have gotten more critics—from what he calls "only bloggers" to a respected institution in US politics. But for Sotto, I guess, he seems unwary of the damage he has done and belittling all the maelstrom of negative reactions towards it, given that the Senate has since ignored calls to, at least, reprimand Sotto for his supposed rampant plagiarism.  Will this Kennedy letter bring him to his senses and apologize?

Seasoned PR professional Amor Maclang thinks Sotto should get the message.

Maclang posted on Facebook that Sotto has everything to gain if he apologizes. "Is there any hope for Sotto at this point?" Maclang said. "All you needed to learn in life (is what) you learned in kindergarten. Apologize. Publicly and privately and to your various stakeholders."

To face this tempest, Maclang said, Sotto must go online himself. "Use technology as we do to 'listen' and 'identify' all the top discussions and fight it, one fire at a time."

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