After writing my post yesterday morning on the possibility that an article that appeared on the DOT website was plagiarized from a post on marketmanila.com published several years ago, I was pleased to receive the following response from Atty. Kaw of the Department of Tourism:
Dear Mr. (Marketman),
Thank you for your email to Secretary Mon Jimenez regarding the issue of plagiarism of your blog in the DOT website. I have been tasked by the Secretary to investigate your complaint and I have already started looking into this matter. We appreciate your bringing this to our attention especially as the content or article was posted on the DOT website in 2008 and this is the first time that Secretary Jimenez has been informed of the same.
In my initial queries with our website developer, I have been informed that the article is no longer in the DOT website and has already been taken down as early as 2 years ago. I was further informed by our website administrator that the link to the article indicated in your email below is sourced or what remains from the server and no longer from the DOT website itself. Nonetheless, rest assured that we will get to the bottom of this and resolve this matter without delay.
On behalf of DOT, and even if it happened in 2008 and not during the term now of Secretary Mon Jimenez, we apologize to you and your readers for any inconvenience that the incident may have caused.
Thank you and best regards.
Very truly yours,
Atty. EUGENE T. KAW
Chief of Staff
Office of the Secretary
Department of Tourism
Atty. Kaw was responsive and appeared cognizant of the germane issues and was preparing look into the matter more fully. I would have been more than happy to wait a reasonable time until receiving his comprehensive response. I didn’t write any other posts, I didn’t even post any further comments, and even deleted parts of reader comments that might be potentially problematic. In other words, I had no desire to “fan the flames” in any sort of way. Period. Then I opened my emails early this evening and these are the emails exchanged:
I received the following email from Mulong Maturingan from GMA News TV that was sent at 3:09pm, and which I opened at 6:30pm:
Hi this is Mulong of GMA News. We are doing a story about your post in your blog about the alleged Plagiarism again of the Department of Tourism. I hope you can find time to contact me thru email or with my mobile number (0917xxxxxx). We would be glad to air your side as we are coordinating with the DOT to get theirs on this matter.
Thank you very much!
I responded with this email, sent at 6:34pm (or 23 minutes AFTER GMA News posted their article on-line, and therefore, my response could not have been a part of that article in any way, nor had I read the article online):
Thanks for your email. Actually, my post details the concern about the plagiarism. The post has received a comment from Atty. Kaw of the DOT and they are looking into the issue and I await their answer. No one has denied the plagiarism, just that they are looking into it. From what I understand, the page has been removed, but even if the page had remained published for 1 day, not 1 year or 3 years, there is still the issue that the contents of the page may have included stolen intellectual property.
I have written about plagiarism before, as well as stolen photos, so this is an issue with broader ramifications, not just limited to the DOT. If institutions, private and public, are not vigilant and adamant about the integrity of their materials, they lose credibility. And since the DOT has already been caught up in a similar incident before, it is surprising that another one would crop up shortly thereafter.
At this point, I am most curious about the supposed writer, and whoever at the DOT was responsible for vetting and approving the article in question, and agreeing to its publication.
I received an email response from Mr. Maturingan sent at 7:27pm, but which I opened at roughly 9:40pm:
I appreciate your response Sir. To discuss the issue/matter further, would you be available for an on cam interview?
And I sent this response to Mr. Maturingan at just after 10:00pm:
I am in Cebu at the moment, so that wouldn’t be possible. Thank you for asking, but I don’t think this issue warrants that type of attention. I just want to find out who is responsible, who is accountable and what will be done to rectify the possible plagiarism. “Test page” or not, the material appears to be stolen from my blog, it WAS published, even for a minute, on the world wide web. It was recorded in the cache and was searchable on google and other search engines. It was available to readers for the last three years as a result of the DOT test. It was only expunged or cleared today, which means it could have been cleared when the test was over, but DOT tech staff didn’t bother to do it. It clearly appeared on a site identified with the DOT, and the screen shot proves it. My readers were able to access it for much of the day today. I was more than willing to quietly wait for Atty. Kaw’s response after a thorough investigation, but I see that others at the DOT are already willing to speak up and be quoted. So I will probably write another post tonight as a response.
Then, I finally sat down to read this item that appeared on GMANews on-line at 6:11 pm, and these are excerpts quoted from that story:
An official from the Department of Tourism (DOT) said Wednesday that the supposedly “plagiarized” article on Filipino food posted on the government agency’s website has long been taken down.
June Garduque, officer-in-charge of the DOT Information Technology division, said the write-up, supposedly copied word for word from food blog MarketManila.com, was only posted online as part of test runs conducted by the department while developing the website in 2008 in coordination with a private firm.
Just a test page
Garduque said that the post was just a “test” page meant to help the website’s developers assess the layout and overall look of the page itself. As such, it was not meant for public consumption and was promptly deleted.
“Test page iyon at hindi final. During the final run, inalis na namin iyon. Nagkataon lang siguro na narecover from search engines. Alam naming hindi iyon validated kaya dinelete na namin iyon,” he said in a phone interview.
He likewise said that the department makes sure that articles posted on its site are originally written by its employees.
“Hindi kami nagpe-plagiarize. Hindi kami naglalagay ng information na hindi galing sa amin. We are very mindful of our content,” he said.
So here are my questions or concerns, based on Mr. Garduque’s quoted responses in the GMANews article:
“TEST PAGE” — Mr./Ms. (gender unclear from article) Garduque’s assertion that the article was merely a “test page” is frankly, lame and irrelevant. The issue is whether the article was ever written at all, by a person tagged as trinadelros, and whether the article was ever published and viewable by the public. In fact, even if it wasn’t viewable by the public, it would still have technically been plagiarized if the contents were lifted from marketmanila.com and made to appear to be the work of someone else. The known facts are that the page, regardless of it being a test or not, WAS PUBLISHED ON THE NET, and despite protestations that it had since been taken down, IT REMAINED VIEWABLE AS A DISTINCT PAGE THAT COULD BE LOCATED THROUGH SEARCH ENGINES. The page had no indication that it was a “TEST PAGE” it had no indication that it had since been removed, and it clearly appeared under the DOT banner, in a page very similar to the DOT’s current website. Mr./Ms. Garduque has not DENIED that the page was written, has not DENIED that it was under the byline of a Ms. trinadelros, has not DENIED that it was published on the public world wide web (even for a nanosecond or a year), and has not DENIED that it remained available to the public through search engines and most importantly, has not categorically DENIED that it was copied from marketmanila.com.
“PROMPTLY DELETED” — Mr./Ms. Garduque seems so confident in his/her quoted statement that the article was promptly deleted. So may I ask for clear answers to the following? On what date and time was the article first published as a “TEST”? For how long did the article remain published on the web? When exactly was the article “promptly deleted” and who deleted it? Why was the article not fully deleted from the web, expunged and cleanly removed? Why was the article suddenly removed today, after my post… which indicates it was more than possible to remove it completely from the public eye but it wasn’t done 2+ years ago? So how could it be asserted that it was “promptly deleted”? In my opinion, it was promptly deleted TODAY, hours after I wrote about it on this blog. But it was most certainly overlooked and certainly not PROMPTLY DELETED from the public eye for the past 3 years! If Mr. Garduque does not have instant answers to my questions after having a full day to investigate, then how can she be so certain in her talk with the GMA reporter that it was indeed “promptly deleted”?
“HINDI KAMI NAGPE-PLAGIARIZE…” — Really, now? Are you sure Mr./Ms. Garduque? Have you even bothered to look up the definition of plagiarism? Let me help you by referring to an article I wrote on it years ago:
If you google “define plagiarism,” the first entry by Wikipedia defines the term plagiarism as, and I quote with link included, “Plagiarism (from the Latin plagiare, “to kidnap”) is the practice of claiming, or implying, original authorship of (or incorporating material from) someone else’s written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one’s own without adequate acknowledgement.”
Until you let me know for certain that you or your hired consultants DID NOT IN FACT COPY WORD FOR WORD my earlier article on the top filipino dishes, and until you prove that a Ms. trinadelros did not appear in a byline for said article, and until you prove that you did not wittingly or unwittingly provide a platform and format and page and PUBLISH IT on the world wide web and made accessible to the public, and until you explain why you did not clean it fully out of the records until today, UNTIL THEN, as far as it appears to me, some form of plagiarism has apparently occurred under the watch of this DOT website and the folks who oversee it.
Let’s not muddle the issue any more, and please, please Mr./Ms. Garduque, do not try to piss me off some more by publicly being quoted as saying the following:
He also appealed to the blog’s writer “not to blow the issue out of proportion,” while gaving the assurance that employees or partners from private firms will be sanctioned if plagiarism was indeed committed.
Frankly, you have some nerve telling me “not to blow the issue out of proportion”. I wrote my post and waited for a response from the DOT. I got it and was prepared to wait for more detailed answers. Meanwhile, I sent a simple response to the GMANews reporter’s inquiry, and that was after the article was published by GMANews on-line. I declined a telephone interview. I declined a television or on camera interview. I pointed the reporter to my earlier post. You meanwhile, saw fit to give several quotes to the reporter, and instead of coursing your answers through Atty. Kaw, who had already made contact with me and had assured me he would get to the bottom of things, you have been quoted with definitive statements that you yourself contradict in the same conversation. For example, you say “hindi kami nagple-plagiarize” and then later you are described by the reported as “giving assurance that the employees or partners from private firms will be sanctioned if plagiarism was indeed committed.” So what is the story, hindi kayo naple-plagiarize or hindi pa siguro sa ngayon kung nag-plagiarize yung suppliers ninyo??? Who was the private firm? Who was responsible for writing the “test pages”? Who was trinadelros? You have had a day to check on these questions, do you have the answers? If you cannot even identify the writer trinadelros (just google her a bit and see if that jogs your memory) then how can you say for certain that the article was not plagiarized? And even if you try to explain and weasel out later that a private firm was the one who plagiarized (if true), is the DOT still not RESPONSIBLE for allowing that article to be PUBLISHED and PUBLICLY viewed for a period of three years? How convenient if we could all just point to third party providers, private contractors, advertising firms, website designers, etc. as the root of all such problems. How convenient indeed. In that case, we should perhaps just outsource everything, and would have little need for real employees at government agencies who aren’t really ultimately responsible for any of their actions.
P.S. For Mr./Ms. Garduque, a final note for you to ponder as the OIC of the IT area at the DOT. The DOT website, ranked by ALEXA, is currently the 319,471th most visited website in the world, and it is estimated to be the 6,309th most visited website in the Philippines. Considering that it should be one of the main portals for foreigners and locals alike who would be potential tourists in our beautiful country, how unfortunate that most of the commenters here seem to think the DOT site lacks sufficient content. And I presume you have several people, and by your own quotes, outside consultants who helped you to design and possibly maintain the site. Considering that the country hopes to attract in excess of five million tourists a year, that seems like a large potential market of users of the DOT website, and many an opportunity lost to promote our country and its destinations… As a taxpayer, I wonder how much money was expended to develop and maintain the DOT website.
Marketmanila.com, on the other hand, is maintained and written by me. I occasionally get the help of a techie to help sort out software issues but use him less than a couple of hours a month. Marketmanila.com is currently the 112,320th most visited website in the world and the 996th most visited site in the Philippines. On a daily basis, this site receives approximately 5-7x the number of visitors as the DOT website. Regular visitors on this blog hail from over 150+ countries around the globe, and many of them do come home to visit the Philippines. This site is completely commercial free, and it cost the public and taxpayers nothing. So at the very least, I would appreciate it if you don’t condone or make light of anyone plagiarizing the site’s contents. Thank you.