MVP’s Mea Culpa / Plagiarism and Delicadeza

I would wager a large sum that his speechwriter was probably mostly to blame. But nevertheless, the brouhaha over Manny Pangilinan’s apparently controversial commencement speech at the Ateneo recently, which allegedly included passages plagiarized (why doesn’t anyone in the press want to use that word, instead using the ridiculous euphemism “borrowed” instead) from speeches of Ms. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame) at Harvard’s commencement last year and Oprah Winfrey is a clear example of the real-life consequences of plagiarism. MVP resigned as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Ateneo, and apologized for the speech, which he admits he wrote with some help from others, but ultimately takes full responsibility for its content. How embarrassing is that? A commencement speech for a top educational institution, given by an alumnus with superb credentials and currently head of its Board of Trustees, found to be violating one of the cardinal rules of academia…

I applaud MVP’s decision to take full responsibility, and I applaud his sense of delicadeza and offer to resign (not yet accepted) as a result of the incident. I think his reputation will remain mostly unscathed as a result of his swift and decisive action. However, I am appalled that someone, most likely a speechwriter, was so ridiculously unimaginative and simply chose to lift key paragraphs/sentences from other well-covered speeches, rather than writing something purely original. If MVP himself did the “borrowing,” I don’t think I would be as positive… I hope this incident doesn’t adversely affect Ateneo for whom Mr. Pangilinan has been an ardent supporter and donor. Maybe this incident will highlight/publicize the fact that it is WRONG to PLAGIARIZE. Now if only erring newspaper and magazine writers/columnists/etc. resigned (or were suspended) every time they were caught plagiarizing other works…

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59 Responses

  1. Too bad for MVP. On the topic of “borrowing”, I’m just curious about the developments from your Zubuchon logo-napping? Hope that would be settled soon.

  2. Yaiks, the peril in entrusting to another the composition of what one would deliver as one’s own! I guess MVP knows so much better now.

  3. Yikes! For somebody who is known for his brains in the business industry this is truly a shamefull predicament. Personally, i think he didn’t have much choice to really own up to this blunder coz it was him who was asked to give a speech and not his staff. Afterall, he did have time to proof read the speech. It’s just sad that those who are putting him down are those from within the Ateneo.

  4. We don’t know how much help he got in writing the speeches (he delivered two, one for each day), but I agree with you MM. If MVP himself did the “borrowing”, then this puts him in an entirely different lower level.

  5. “I take full responsibility” means nothing. Were there any consequences? Likely not. So, full responsibility is empty.

  6. James, at least he is owning up to it. Before the school even thought about the consequences during the lengthy holiday break. As for possible consequences, he could always be sued by Ms. Rowling, Ms. Winfrey and/or President Obama… that would be a spectacle, but not likely. As for the speechwriter, I am sure everyone who hires such folks would like to know who he/she is… If there is an upside to this, other speechwriters will be a bit more careful in the months ahead I think… Em Dy, if it were my speechwriter, they would be fired on the spot.

    I have worked with folks who were as busy as MVP in the business arena, and they easily gave a speech or two a week, and I know they barely wrote 10-20% of the speeches, and often trusted their speechwriters to complete the rest… so I can readily see how this happened, but vetting one’s speechwriter more carefully and stressing expectations is probably necessary in future….

  7. horrors! gosh. i so not envy his speechwriter right now. that person should find another career or better yet move to another country. kudos for mvp for taking full accountability for the mistake! at least truth and accountability was a lesson learned from this incident.

  8. Its just a simple thing—–it could sound this way–“to quote Ms. Ophrah Winfrey etc etc” –just an itty bitty insertion –could have saved the day! oh well…

  9. I find it hard to believe that a paid professional speechwriter would stoop to plaigarism.
    Seems almost juvenile.

  10. My admiration goes to him for quick damage control. Something that did not even cross my mind about that fellow wearing the shoes of the fisherman. When you soil yourself you either wash it out right away or let it dry thoroughly and shake off the caked mud off your garment long afterward.

  11. But still… the PLDT Convergent Technologies Center Building is still worth 50 Million… and that is something they could put behind… =)

  12. Captains of industries are too busy to be writing their own speeches that they usually have a staff who craft 10-20 minute speeches for them. Writing a speech is not easy; it’s time-consuming. It takes me days to craft a speech! Fortunately I don’t have the number of speaking engagements that I imagine MVP has. MVP’s “fault” is that he – or maybe one of his speech writers – passed on the job/hired some sophomoric writers who thought they could get away with “borrowed passages” from books they assumed MVP couldn’t have possibly read. Somebody in his camp got lazy. I applaud MVP, though, for his sense of delicadeza, much more for assuming full responsibility for the speech. I can imagine though the bloodbath in the backroom.

  13. Plagiarism and other related problems – it appears we cannot distinguish any longer from plagiarism and ‘borrowing’, ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ and torture, etc. Public language is now a dark thicket of words that mean nothing, that we use ad infinitum – for example: closure, empower, self-actualization, forward looking, pushing the envelope. I have read in some school district kids in jr. high are encouraged to issue mission statements!!

  14. It doesn’t matter whether someone helped him prepare the speech. He really should take all the responsibility because that is the speech he delivered; he was presumed to have prepared the speech.

    I’m just wondering why in hell did he not examine first what he was about to read, knowing full well that he was not about to speak before an ordinary group of graduates of an ordinary school. Too bad for him. That’s the problem when you try to be in so many places within the very limited time of 24 hours a day. Good lesson for him. He should be aware of human limitations.

  15. at least new fodder to throw at Ateneans, when they get together with la sallistas B)

  16. I have heard that those same speechwriters (there are 2 of them) were from Ateneo. If this is true, what does that even tell you about Ateneo graduates and the values that these so called pious people purport. This thing shouldn’t even be possible in the case of MVP, doesn’t he have a personal proofreader? Being caught plagiarizing is the most embarrassing thing that could happen to a person in the writing profession, I’d stop writing if I were. I’ve known a couple of people back in college at UP who where caught plagiarizing with their term papers and got suspended for at least a semester. Ateneo should start monitoring their’s more strictly. It just isn’t right. I believe Mr. Pangilinan is innocent here, I also assume that those speechwriters have been fired by now, they shouldn’t be able to land a job in this industry ever. This should serve as a lesson.

  17. Cynthia, the article refers to “borrowing” from Rowling, Winfrey and Obama ALL in the speech(es) at Ateneo. So the issue is this recent speech, not previous ones, just to be accurate and not create any more misconceptions. Thanks.

  18. I have come across plagiarism in the local print media more than a few times. One article was copied in its entirety from an issue of Elle Decor and “made original” by the addition of a few sentences before and after the article. I keep ranting about this particular instance because not only were a few sentences lifted but an entire article- Can you imagine?

    There are times I will read something in local magazines and say to myself, “Hey, I’ve read this before”, then go on a wild goose chase to find the original source . Very sad for supposed professionals. I can appreciate that there may be shared sentiments and thoughts running parallel in people’s brains- but I think writers know the difference of “being inspired” and downright copying! They should know the difference anyway!

  19. The hypocrisy of the press is quite evident in this case. They would euphemized it as “borrowed” instead of saying it as it really is: Plagiarize; just because it is Manny Pangilinan. I bet if he was somebody not as rich or influential, we would be seeing the word plagiarism flying all-over the broadsheets.

  20. I can imagine the reaction of his classmates from Wharton as they read the article in the NYT. Not good.

    More importantly however, PHI has been a stellar performer for the last few years and it has generally received good press over the years. I would therefore not judge him in a harsh manner.



  21. The speech writers thought they would never be caught. The sought the easy way out by consulting the website of the best commencement speeches. Never did they realize that many are computer savvy and can check out this information quickly. They should be sacked immediately for the great disservice to MVP, the Ateneans and to the rest of country. Embarrassing!!!

  22. Fire the speechwriters who apparently are Ateneans themselves, fresh grads eager to impress. Didn’t they learn from their alma mater that plagiarism is a crime?

  23. What I want to know is who is the speechwriter? Is it Babe Romualdez? Or someone else?

  24. @ Chrisz apparently not. Although admireable that MVP took full responsibility I don’t think he had any other choice because the comparison was too glaring for him to even deny it. The question is would people put all the blame now on those atenean fresh graduates. By his mere admission that he asks from time to time help on his speeches doesn’t clear the issue if those specific parts borrowed/copied from celebrities were indeed his idea or his speechwriter’s. His apology encompassed those minor pertinent details to my view to already put an end to this bad PR but is already part of crisis management.

    On a lighter note: I say MVP should threaten all publications that he will pull out smart/PLDT advertisement if this news is featured in their newspapers.

    Just kidding ofcourse.

  25. Is plagiarism a serious crime? Absolutely. Is it dishonouroble? Undoubtedly. Should it carry consequences? Definitely. But, if you are a person of MVP’s stature, someone who is known not only here in Manila, but in Asia and likely other pockets of the world, the blemish to your good name is more than enough punishment. To have your name bandied around with a circumstance such as this and to cause deep embarrassment not only to your alma mater, but also to people you hold in very high regard is a laceration to the soul … I feel for MVP.

  26. Father Nebres, incumbent President of Ateneo, even praised MVP for his courage to admit that he borrowed those lines. How can we ever have the morale authority over our own children, our own thugs in Congress and Senate, when the “beacons” of our society condone, praise and turn a blind eye to something as blatant a a plagiarized speech. Ateneo and MVP have done a great dis SERVICE TO THIS country!

    See for yourselves

    I would like to know what would Ateneo do if MVP were a senior at Ateneo, and his plagiarized speech was submitted to his professor a requirement for getting his degree.

  27. when a colleague grabbed a photo from my FB profile, and without even asking for my permission posted it to her profile… i was so disappointed and it was only then that i understood your rant before. plagiarism in any forms, photo grabbing or logo copying are pure violations of conduct, period!

  28. @ leigh:

    you said, “But, if you are a person of MVP’s stature, someone who is known not only here in Manila, but in Asia and likely other pockets of the world, the blemish to your good name is more than enough punishment. To have your name bandied around with a circumstance such as this and to cause deep embarrassment not only to your alma mater, but also to people you hold in very high regard is a laceration to the soul …”

    so are you saying that because Mr. Pangilinan is highly regarded in social and business circles then being threatened with ostracism is enough punishment while your average-joe plagiarist that do not hold such lofty positions have to deal with legalities?

    I like MVP and his contribution to local business and commerce. but what happened is just wrong. you do this in front of a crowd of young college graduates and you get away with it because you’re sorry would send a wrong message to an already f’d up society. MVP mans up to his responsibility- thats good, but if ADMU leaves it as it is then it sends a wrong message.

  29. MVP did the honorable thing: apologize and resign (although not accepted). At least, he is decent enough to own up his mistake, take full responsibility for it, and offer to leave his post @ Ateneo. In the Philippines, that’s a very rare thing. Some posters (in this blog and elsewhere) are not satisfied though and want MVP to make the ultimate sacrifice: hara-kiri. In the Philippines, that’s not gonna happen. So let’s just be thankful that there’s still some Filipino in our topsy-turvy society who knows the word ‘delicadeza’. Now, do we expect Enrile, Erap, Villar, or Velarde (to name a few) to apologize for their misdeeds? Not in our lifetime, I’m afraid.

  30. acid, if the authorities (and who are these people? the owner of the speeches? the ateneo board of trustees?) will decide that they wanna sue MVP, then they will and he will have to tackle the “legalities” then. if they don’t, he won’t have to. this is the same for any average joe schmoe—if the offended parties will not sue, there will be no legalities. if this issue will not land in court, it’s not because he’s got lofty positions.

    also, those speeches are from people in the states, THEY should be the ones who will sue for IP laws, not ADMU. ADMU cannot do that under the law because the IP is not theirs. MVP already “manned up” to the responsibility by resigning as chairman of the board of trustees and by apologizing for the incident. what more can be expected of him anyway? walking down on his knees in the sacred heart chapel and fasting for 40 days?

    ADMU will do what it must, but I think they will keep him in the board, if not as chairman. one person who commits plagiarism does not equate to a university of plagiarizers. especially since he owned up and swallowed all the blame for it. and i don’t think that him delivering that speech in front of the “young graduates” will change their outlook and principles. these are after all adults, not impressionable children. plus being graduates, we assume that they are smart enough to understand the nuances of the scenario. do you think that they will be fucked up in the future, plagiarize their way up the corporate ladder simply because they heard MVP’s plagiarized speech? that’s an exaggerated point, i think.

    in the end he will be a lesson for everyone in the academe, and who’s to say that’s not a bad thing?

  31. Joey et al, I actually think Ateneo has no decent and ethical choice but to accept the resignation. And even if they don’t, MVP should insist on it. That will be the best conclusion to the matter, in my personal opinion. They cannot be seen to be dismissive or even lenient on the matter of plagiarism, as an educational institution with a serious reputation to uphold. This issue has already made it to the New York Times and the BBC, I am almost certain that one or all three of the offended or copied from folks will hear about it… I do agree MVP has done the right thing, but I personally think he should insist on stepping off the board as his staying will only keep the discussion and debate going, particularly amongst the students of the school…

  32. I think we are over-reaching by putting the blame on the 2 speechwriters.

    What we haven’t aksed is: Is plagiarism the ‘standard’ practise in the PLDT PR department ?

    The idea of putting the blame on subordinates is not exactly upright. But we must commend MVP for owning up to it (after he was caught disgracefully and unwillingly).

    What is the teachable moment here ? The fact that a bunch of internet researchers were able to scour the web and pinpoint the plagiarism in MVP’s speech. This is what the internet can do. Funny, the damage was done to a telecom executive.

  33. @emsy:

    you wrote, “ADMU will do what it must, but I think they will keep him in the board, if not as chairman. one person who commits plagiarism does not equate to a university of plagiarizers. especially since he owned up and swallowed all the blame for it. and i don’t think that him delivering that speech in front of the “young graduates” will change their outlook and principles. these are after all adults, not impressionable children. plus being graduates, we assume that they are smart enough to understand the nuances of the scenario. do you think that they will be fucked up in the future, plagiarize their way up the corporate ladder simply because they heard MVP’s plagiarized speech? that’s an exaggerated point, i think.”

    Yes, archiving the speech – plagiarism and all – and a school administration not doing anything about an issue like this will not affect the adults. And it will be a high point in the next 100th year celebration of Ateneo. These “adults” will never get the impression that since Mr. Pangilinan has a such a high stature then the school authorities can say “its alright.” BUT if a freshman who submits a term paper that has two lines copied off someone else’s paper- then he can be investigated and maybe even expelled from the school.

    I trust the good Jesuits who has members that are very learned and opinionated when it comes to what is right and wrong with the Philippines today apply their expertise on this issue. (And I don’t mean them suing MVP, btw)


    I believe the speech writers are not from PLDT. As a matter of fact, I believe at least a couple of them are opinion writers for major broadsheets. That is the irony there.

  34. @acid – my post above doesn’t mean that “being threatened with ostracism is enough punishment while your average-joe plagiarist that do not hold such lofty positions have to deal with legalities?”

    I’m just saying that for someone like MVP, I sincerely do not think it is the loss of position nor is it even any legally meted punishment if any, that will prove to be the deepest cut. All this – the negative discussions, the mistrust, the loss of respect and hurting people like Fr. Ben and the Ateneo community – these cut very deeply.

  35. Ateneo’s hesitation to accept MVP’s resignation speaks volumes about what the school values. This is a school. If it doesn’t treat this plagiarism as an unconscionable act with serious consequences, then MVP isn’t the only one causing it embarrassment. Ateneo should have acted as swiftly as Manny Pangilinan and accepted his resignation. Now is not the time to worry about how much money or clout they will lose with Pangilinan’s exit. The school’s rep has been damaged. Ateneo’s first concern should be how to fix it.

  36. As an Atenean student and employee (Asst Prof), I do feel for MVP and I do applaud his delicadeza. Unfortunately, there is no going around it. He accepted full responsibility, did what was right, and now it is the University’s responsibility to uphold principles of integrity and ACCEPT his resignation. He is an ardent supporter of the ADMU, Board Chair or not. The University loses nothing when he resigns. WE LOSE EVERYTHING that a school should stand for if they don’t accept his resignation.

  37. Market Man. This goes deeper. Lack of originality, lack of competence even among top professors. How many English professors in Ateneo and U.P. have actually read enough classics? I have classmates who got As in English by publishing essays replete with cliches. Contemporary Philippine literature is also full of the derivative.

    You mix mediocrity with an allergy for criticism, shallow pride complementing hidden but explosive insecurities and you will have these kinds of things popping out now and then. It’s MVP’s bad luck he didn’t spend money on this speech, because it’s obvious he didn’t hire a professional.

  38. acid, i think that if any of those graduates (and undergrads or anyone for that matter) will learn anything from this is that plagiarism is *NOT* okay and that it can be detrimental to your reputation. THAT is the lesson here. this scenario will forever be tagged to MVP. “Huy, naalala nyo yung speech nung big boss sa PLDT? kakahiya di ba?” this will resonate forever. it’ll be the stuff butt jokes are made of. and avoiding that scenario is that lesson that MVP ultimately gives to everyone in the academe. however that doesn’t mean that MVP is a bad person, I think we both agree there. and of course his continuing support to a school like ateneo will build the leaders, thinkers and scientists of the future which I think weighs more than the plagiarism. suspend him, take him down as chairman of the board or whatever, but i don’t think they’ll totally let him go. in the end, his contributions will bring society a greater good, which is what jesuit education is all about—the greater good.

    btw, being an atenean myself, you don’t automatically get expelled from just “a couple of lines.” actually, even if you plagiarized the entire paper, depending on your teacher, you’ll probably be asked to write a new one with a lower ceiling grade or be dropped from the class, or get suspended for a couple of months, especially if it’s only the first incident. it’s in the manual. only if it’s habitual will you get expelled. i think that point on the average student getting expelled from school for copying a couple of lines is ridiculously exaggerated.

  39. @emsy

    that is the problem there- IF ateneo does not accept his resignation… it will show that they weigh Mr. Pangilinan’s “continuing support” and “his contributions” more than values that they purport to uphold and teach.

    and I must apologize if I assumed wrongly. I am not from ateneo but from where I studied, any evidence of plagiarism on a term paper, if proven to be true, no matter if its the whole or just a portion, will get you expelled.

    and also, jesuit education is not all about “the greater good” as you mentioned, I think you got it confused with St. Ignatius’ established principle for the Society of Jesus which ends with: “… he should show himself ready to reconcile the estranged, compassionately assist and serve those who are in prisons or hospitals, and indeed, to perform any other works of charity, according to what will seem expedient for the glory of God and the common good”

  40. Whether to accept MVP’s offer of resignation or not should be good topic for all the Philosophy classes in Ateneo.

    I beg to disagree with a previous opinion that MVP should have hired a professional speechwriter. On the contrary, he might have been better off writing his own speech. The fact that you are invited to be commencement speaker of a university means that you should have enough ideas and words of your own.

  41. Note that this happens in everyday life. It is the cut and paste generation. Look at how easy it is for many children even up to College level to cut and paste passages from the internet for their school research paper. :(

  42. If these things are not taught in school or more so as what emsy has stated not even punished if caught cheating in school then the ateneo has contributed to the propagation of this cut and paste generation you are talking about. That wasn’t always the case in the ateneo. What has happened to its educational standards? During our time it was different. Way different.

    I agree it could happen to anybody but somebody who has been given such a high and honorable stature in this institution is truly a sad and bitter situation.

  43. Thanks again, MM. I think – the moral of this lesson is : magpakatotoo na lang sila. If they are not experts in speech writing- probably – they shld not offer themselves to be speakers di ba. or if they cant help it – just speak from the heart. it does not matter if it is a short message ( all the more that it would probably be appreciated- coz who would want to hear a long speech anyway). at times, masyadong kasi silang mayabang – hindi naman kaya.

  44. If the press uses the word borrowed for plagiarism, then I will call it stealing, because they borrowed without permission.

  45. baycas, I have to say, the ad is a catchy one, and the original appeals to me. The Villar version was less appealing because of the candidate, but I still listened to an entire ad while channel surfing…

  46. ADMU is just dishonouring his act of taking full responsibility by not letting him go. Let him go and move on. Otherwise, this incident will continue to tarnish this fine institution because any decision he makes in the future could be always suspected of being influenced by this event. MVP knows he could help ADMU in so many different ways, and not just by being in the board so he did the honourable thing.

    My respect for him actually went up another notch.

  47. britelite et al, I think MVP will insist on stepping down, it is the only logical choice after his admission and apology. I agree with you the school wimped out. And if I were a student that had previously been expelled for plagiarism, I would wonder about the administration of the college…

  48. i agree nakakahiya what the school did. It’s like money over principles already. Where are those true blue principled ateneans? I miss the likes of Fr. Tito Caluag who wont be bought by manny/money. Hope there will be more people like him in the ateneo.

    Such a sad day for all ateneans…

  49. in a capitalist society, plagiarism maybe a crime, but a thought is a thought, and no one really owns it, for all knowledge emerge from a single source.

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