Camarines Sur Polytechnic Colleges (CSPC) has issued an official statement apologizing for the "unintentionally" plagiarized valedictory address of its student, Jayvee Ayen.
Ayen, a magna cum laude graduate and the top of his batch, has been the subject of online criticism after social media users noticed similarities in the introduction of his speech with that of the 2019 valedictory address of Mariyela Mari Hugo, a Far Eastern University graduate.
Both graduates started their speeches with the sentence "Lang, the short term for the Filipino word 'lamang', which means 'just' or 'only'".
But it wasn't just the introduction that ruffled the feathers of netizens. They also noticed that the entire theme of Ayen's speech was identical to Hugo, with both criticizing the culture of belittling other degree programs that seemed to lack any profitable job opportunities.
Ayen admitted that he indeed watched the YouTube video of the speech and related to it. Despite the rest of his address not bearing any more plagiarized content, netizens still wanted him to have attributed Hugo.
The entrepreneurship graduate has since apologized, according to a Facebook post by The SPARK, the student publication of CSPC. He reasoned that he never meant to plagiarize Hugo's work and that he was only inspired by it.
“I mean not to plagiarize [...] Naka-relate lang rin ako ng sobra nung napanood ko yung video,” said Ayen.
In a July 13 statement, CSPC apologized to Hugo for the "carefree attitude of Mr. Ayen in unintentionally copying the idea and style of her speech without proper attribution."
They also apologized to other individuals who were offended by the issue.
"We knock on the generosity of hearts of everyone to allow this to pass without hatred towards the person as he moves on to start a career in his life as an entrepreneur or whatever path he would wish to take. We offer a reconciliatory gesture to Ms. Hugo and all others for the gap this issue has created," CSPC said.
They also assured that they are "making appropriate steps for corrective and formative measures towards Mr. Ayen and in the school in general."
A global phenomenon
Jeremaiah Opiniano, a research professor for the journalism course in the University of Santo Tomas, emphasized that plagiarism is a global phenomenon and that such cases aren't new.
"Plagiarism cases aren't new, regardless if those who did it are honors or ordinary students, or even the elite," he said in a quick interview with PhilSTAR L!fe.
"Whether 'intentional' or not, the human mind may be exercising the cognitive shortcut that nicely-written stuff get used but without attribution, and are not even paraphrased plus given the proper attribution. So what's new? Plagiarism is a global phenomenon," he added.
In the past, there have been high-profile cases of plagiarism arising from none other than public officials.
Former senator Vicente Sotto III is still defending himself from allegations that he copied from the late US Sen. Robert Kennedy and blogger Sarah Pope for a speech about the Reproductive Health bill.
He insisted that he merely translated and did not copy it.
“If we used it and translated it into Tagalog, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s not plagiarism,” Sotto explained in an interview with Rappler.
According to the 2012 advisory of the Department of Justice, plagiarism can amount to criminal violation of the Intellectual Property Code, the E-Commerce Act or the Cybercrime Prevention Act. It highlighted that plagiarism should be avoided and that everyone should always practice attribution and citing sources.
Opiniano urged schools to enforce stricter measures to teach students to avoid plagiarism.
"Schools in the basic and higher education levels may have to step up and institute measures to teach students how to elude plagiarism. The problem is the Internet gives young people the convenience to search, and the convenience to just copy stuff. The schools may have to use freely available anti-plagiarism websites, to check items from quizzes to graduation speeches," he said.
"Even teachers may have to train and retrain themselves on how to avoid plagiarism, especially if they are not born or trained writers. We leave to schools' policies on how do they reprimand plagiarism cases. But the long-term solution begins with instruction/teaching and actual practice, by young and old people alike," he added.