Monday ∗ 11 Apr 2011

plagiarism apology as can of worms

because this is what happened when Krip Yuson apologized for his act of plagiarism: he opened a can of worms about writing in this country, about the hubris of the editor, about the question of writer versus editor, etc. etc. and you know I’m all for letting it all hang out, but given the gravity of an awarded Filipino writer plagiarizing, it just seems like the wrong time for invoking other worms.

Worm #1: Yuson talks about being the editor of the original piece, forgetting that it wasn’t his work pala, mea culpa, honest mistake naman. but where did this statement even come from, when is it acceptable for an editor to invoke his ownership of a text, one that isn’t his at all?

I imagine it comes from what still is the amorphous title of editor at least in these Pinoy shores, one that I learned from mentor(-beyond-death) Luisa Mallari who thought it was an immature profession in this country (addendum: at least in the late 90s, given the ones lording it over as editors versus what Tita K reminds me are the great editors like Joaquin, Locsin, Roces). this is not so much a judgement of current editorship as it is an assessment of its smallness, a smallness that editors themselves impose on the title, on the job, on the profession. because while it is a valid profession, separate from the writer, distinct from being co-author, it rarely seems like such.

Yuson’s apology doesn’t help the cause of the editor any. when he said he had “re-written” the original essay, he was in fact talking about something an editor isn’t expected to do. when he said he thought he was “at the very least part-author” of the piece, he was in fact crossing the line between being editor and being co-writer of the piece. and all these regardless of what the writer Rey Joble thought, or would’ve thought, about his editor claiming his original work?

in fact in the ideal world, no editor would claim a writer’s work as his own. in the world where editors respect writers, and respect themselves, an editor wouldn’t re-write a text so much that he would begin to imagine it as his. instead the editor would comment on the work and ask the writer to do the major revision. if/when the editor does the major revision himself — in Yuson’s case he calls this revision a re-write — then the editor must know as well to let his work go, and give it to the writer, whose work it still is, whose name should still be on that byline, who will take credit for whatever work the editor puts in, regardless. in fact, once the editor wields his power over a text, the writer has a right to say no, that’s not the way I want to say it, no, this is mine, you can’t touch it that way. the editor respects the writer enough to let this happen as well.*

but the only thing we know about Yuson’s relationship with Rey Joble is what Yuson himself talks about in the apology: Joble understands me, we’re still friends. well yes, but what of everything else this silences? I’d love to see Rey Joble’s original work, and look at Yuson’s editing as an exercise in seeing what editing in the form of a re-write means. I would love to hear Rey Joble speak, about his original work, about his original work being plagiarized. I’d love to look into the struggle that necessarily exists between Rey Joble and Yuson, the writer and the editor, and how this is changed by the act of plagiarism that Yuson committed against Joble.

ah, but I don’t know that any of that will ever be possible. and in the meantime there is:

Worm #2: the notion of deadlines, being pressed for time, in the act of writing (and editing) which Yuson invokes. which to me is the strangest — strangest! — excuse he could give, used as it is by college students who fail to beat the deadline for a major paper submission, unacceptable as that is in the world of adults in general, and adults who write for a living in particular.

I’m not saying I’ve never been pressured by a deadline; I’m saying that the pressure is part of this enterprise of writing, deadlines are necessary in this creative life (and I use creativity loosely here, or as broadly as possible).  it was most disheartening to read Yuson invoking deadlines as an excuse for plagiarism, for now any student can say: maam, ang dami kong ibang deadline eh, i was forced to copy and paste na lang from the internet. i agree naman with this site’s opinions eh.

imagine the repercussions for creative writing classes.

but maybe the more dismaying thing about Yuson’s use of the deadline excuse is that it begs this question: why did he say yes to so much, why couldn’t he have said no to one of those deadlines? and maybe the better question, why didn’t he just ask Rey Joble to help him with that Rogue article? why couldn’t it be passed on to Rey Joble altogether? Yuson’s got enough power to anoint someone as worthy of taking his place, especially since he is saddled with so many other deadlines, especially since it’s just one essay after all.

but maybe these questions don’t matter anymore, really. it looks like we’re out to forgive Yuson, complete with but the most chipipay comments thread on facebook (and I say that with love), that only the usual suspects are part of. otherwise, Yuson’s plagiarism seems to be spoken of in whispers, or maybe with heads shaking, or with a dismissal: if the Supreme Court can do it, anyone can.

but even with that we fail to acknowledge the value of the writer, even then it seems like we are wrongly forgiving of Yuson, failing to see that he is famed multi-awarded writer, and that this in itself is important to our cultural identity. as such it would seem right that we don’t forget, that we don’t make excuses for him, seeing as he’s done a pretty bad job at apologizing.

I imagine we’re a wee bit embarrassed for Yuson, maybe because we owe him in some form? maybe because we don’t like seeing one member of the writing and literati community, one so visible and famed, to go down in ashes such as this one? maybe because we know of the deadlines that he speaks of?

yet we also know that in the face of deadlines, the choice is easy: will you plagiarize in the midst of deadlines? or will you admit to being human, tao lang sorry, and say you need an extension? or maybe you’ll just miss the deadline, do a darn good job at the submission anyway, that you’ll be forgiven for being late?

at the very least, I’d like to think that none of us will do a list of excuses for misdemeanors, be they minor or plagiarism, the way Yuson has done. because if we are to learn our lessons here we must see that what this apology inadvertently does, other than opening this can of worms, is to highlight the writer’s / editor’s / literati’s hubris. and given all the stereotyping we already suffer, given our apparent removal from the hoi polloi, this portrayal of ourselves is the last thing we need, a misrepresentation really, that just means too many steps back in the task of demolishing the writer’s ivory tower and everything it represents. sayang naman.

that last bit seems to apply all around.


* this is the kind of relationship I have with Howie Severino on gmanewsonline as well, this the kind of respect we accord each other, where a word, a phrase, a sentence, a thought in an article of mine, can be passed back and forth between the two of us until we both agree on a major change.

Posted in: akademya, arts and culture, kalalakihan, kapitalista, kultura, media, panitikan

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30 Comments/Pingbacks

  1. Steve Salonga
    April 11, 2011 at 11:35 am

    thank you for speaking out so precisely. Your craft amazes. You have already spoken for me (I too shied from commenting initially). Bravo!

  2. Brian
    April 11, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    And I thought TB Locsin claiming Cory’s speech as his own (he was the ghost writer) personal achievement was bad enough.

    Radikal. It was your mistake to admire the guy. The pretentious language should clue you in. For example when he writes about magic realism, do you really think he understands what it is? Can he tell it apart from, say, a children’s story?

    It’s an old pattern of the elite. Every time someone catches you doing a bad deed just change the rules.

  3. ina
    April 11, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    @brian, i blame my undergraduate course in comparative literature, which meant reading the great philippine jungle energy cafe too many times, and really, it was difficult not to love that novel. still is difficult not to enjoy it now. but yes, yes, i get what you mean.

    • Brian
      April 11, 2011 at 11:16 pm

      As an experiment, can you copy paste an excerpt of the novel and tell what it means to you?

      • ina
        April 11, 2011 at 11:38 pm

        @brian: experiment in what exactly? it’s strange enough a request that yes i’d go for it. haha. lemme find my copy of the novel. :-)

        what it means to me: more than anything, i think it’s borne of the time when the novel came out. it was considered as “new” then, something that we hadn’t read before at least in these shores. it’s also a novel that works very clearly with Phil historical data and its retelling, as it interweaves with the hippie subculture of the 70s in Manila.

        off the top of my head. :-)

        • Brian
          April 12, 2011 at 1:15 am

          Ahh. Experiment done. I thought you really felt for it, the characters, the milieu, your mind bent by its breadth and depth. It was good because you thought it was new?

          I also why such a wonderful novel (a living breathing Philippine history) hasn’t reached other shores yet. Is it one of those neglected masterpieces of world literature?)

          • ina
            April 12, 2011 at 1:21 am

            hmmmm. i don’t fall easily rin kase eh. though falling for a local novel would have to be State of War by Ninotchka Rosca. and Twice Blessed too. and then there’s Three Filipino Women by F. Sionil Jose. these, especially the one by F. Sionil reached other shores i believe. :-)

            as for Krip’s novel, in the context of a chronological reading of a survey of Phil Lit in English, it was a wonderful departure from the standard narrative, the realist mode of local fiction of course that was his one novel, his one major work as far as I’m concerned.

          • Brian
            April 12, 2011 at 2:56 pm

            I think it’s possible you like them not for their genius but because they are above other Filipinos in their English skills. Or they come closes to the British and American classics as far as syntax and tone of voice. It’s like having a crush on a mestizo because most men around you are dark or have pango noses.

            I hope you are not offended by this.

  4. GabbyD
    April 11, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    i wish i could read the chippipay comments :) unfortunately, i’m not permitted.

  5. ina
    April 11, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    @gabby d: ay wait, lemme ask if i can copy and paste here. :-)

  6. cac
    April 11, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Nakakagago talaga mga burgis sa lipunang eto. Puro pa-forgiveness epek.
    They’re like little Gloria Arroyos, and they’re just multiplying.

  7. Cois
    April 12, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    two things:

    is krip yuson the only ky working for gmanewsonline? if yes, then maybe the media outlet helped in perpetuating krip’s false assumption of co-authorship by allowing him his tagline at the end of the story.

    when is it acceptable for an editor to invoke his ownership of a text, one that isn’t his at all? — when it is company policy. after all, outside pinoy shores, there are magazines that allow editors to share bylines with writers if they helped in improving the original draft. i’m not sure if it’s time or newsweek–or one of those international mags that live in a less than ideal world too.

    it’d be interested to find out if gmanewsonline has issued any statement regarding this.

    great piece, btw. thought-provoking.

  8. ina
    April 12, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    @brian: no, no offense taken, your presumption is one that many have about our literature. though it’s one that doesn’t apply to me, as having studied it the way i have, it’s always been about putting it within this context, as separate and distinct as possible from the rest of the world’s literatures. this is why i contextualize my appreciation of Krip’s novel in the history of Philippine literature in English, as a concrete though unstable tradition of writing. :-)

  9. ina
    April 12, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    @cac: hay. hindi ko naman idedeny ang pagkaburgis ko, nagiingles na rin lang ako sa blog na ‘to. pero sa totoo lang? sobrang tindi ng elitism sa mundo, at hindi na lang tungkol kay Yuson yan, pati na rin tungkol kay Willie Revillame.

  10. ina
    April 12, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    @Cois: ikaw ang may magagandang tanong. na hindi ko naman kayang sagutin. nakita mo na ba ito? pareho ng linya ng pagiisip mo. ang galing. —

  11. Samuel
    April 13, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Hi Ina, I already posted these comments in Jaemark’s blog, but would like to share here —

    Hindi dahil umamin ka sa nagawa mong mali eh tapos na ang usapan. Kung lahat ng bagay sa ganitong paraan matatapos, saan tayo pupulutin niyan. I don’t mean to go off on a tangent, pero — lahat ba ng kriminal, kapag nagsabi ng sorry eh “off the hook” na rin sa kanilang krimen?

    Not to say na nasa ganoong level yung nagawa ni Krip, pero agree ako sa sinabi ng iba: wala na siyang moral authority ngayon, sa kahit anong bagay, lalong-lalo na sa pagsusulat. At sa pagtuturo. Anong klaseng example ang binibigay niya ngayon sa lahat ng tumitingala sa kaniya? Ang dami naming mga bata at baguhang writer na nagpapakahirap kumita ng pera, pumapasok sa iba’t ibang trabaho kahit hindi namin gusto, kasi kailangan namin kumain eh, kailangan namin magbayad ng kuryente. Pero despite all of that, nagsisikap kami na itaas ang antas ng pagsusulat sa pamamagitan ng laging pagiging tapat. Pero si Krip Yuson, na nandiyan na, na hindi na kailangan magbanat masyado ng buto, na marami nang awards, nakaya mong gawin to. Grabe lang.

    Hindi benta sa akin yung excuse niya. Kasi yun lang yun — excuse lang. Sa layo ng narating niya, sa lalim ng experience niya, hindi katanggap-tanggap ang rason na ngarag siya dahil may deadline, o nag-assume siya na “co-author” siya. I mean, COME ON. Kung co-author ka eh di dapat dun palang sa original na article may byline ka na. Dapat sa umpisa pa lang may concrete and explicit understanding sila ni Rey Joble na kayong dalawa yung sumulat nun.

    Isa pa, hindi dahil nag-edit at nag-proofread ka, co-author ka na. Alam yan dapat ni Krip. Imposibleng hindi. Imposible. Ang tagal na niyang nagsusulat. Kahit sino sa atin na nakapagsulat na sa publication, kahit sa high school, college o nationally distributed magazine o newspaper pa yan, alam yang mga ganyan. Kaya hindi excuse yung assumption niya. The fact that he assumed it is so in the first place speaks of his arrogance, I’m sorry to say.

    Sa mga taong nagsasabi bakit pinapalaki na pa to, na hindi to issue, well, bilang isang writer, para sa akin issue to. Ang hirap maging writer dito sa Pinas, tapos mababababoy pa dahil sa ginawa ni Krip. Tapos to add insult to injury, nakapaka-offhand pa ng apology, parang ginagawa tayong tanga lahat.

    Hindi lang to simpleng plagiarism ng sports article. May epekto to unang-una sa education, dahil teacher din siya, pangalawa sa pagtuturo sa mga batang writer, dahil yun ang trabaho niya, pangatlo, sa pagiging writer, dahil tayo bilang manunulat, kahit sa diyaryo ka pa o sa magazine o scriptwriter sa tv o tumutula – may mga responsibilidad tayo, hindi lang sa community ng mga writers pero sa audience natin. Hindi natin dapat “hayaan na” at hindi tayo dapat mag-“move on” dahil lang nag-sorry siya.

    Isa pa, paano yung mga institusyon na nagbigay ng mga parangal sa kaniya? Hindi rin ba niya yun ininsulto at dinisrespect? Kahit ba sabihin natin na nagka-award siya dati pa, na yung mga award na yun ay para sa mga original na sinulat niya dati pa, yung pangalan ng institusyon kakabit na sa pangalan niya, sa credentials niya. May responsibilidad din siya dun.

    Pati yung Rogue – paano ko pa ngayon paniniwalaan ang credibility ng Rogue Magazine kung nakakalampas yung mga ganitong insidente?

    Yun lang naman, kaya naiintindihan ko yung disgust ni Jaemark at ng iba pang commenters. Yun din yung sana maintindihan nung iba. Hindi to showbiz. Real life to. Sa real life yung mga gumagawa ng ganitong mali, dapat ginagawang accountable. Hindi por que nag-sorry ay ok na. Yan din yung ginawa nung isang presidente di ba, sa TV pa. O tapos anong nangyari dun.

    Kailangan lang kasi lawakan pa natin ng kaunti yung pag-unawa natin sa nangyaring ito. At itaas pa lalo yung standards natin.

    Para sa ibang mga writers, lalo na sa mga bata pa, sa tingin ko dapat hindi natin to palampasin, dapat hindi tayo tumahimik lang. Kasi tayo yung magmamana ng iiwanan ng mga nakakatanda eh, at kung may isang Krip Yuson na plagiarizer na mag-iiwan ng ganitong “legacy” at tinanggap na lang natin nang basta-basta, paano na sa future? Paano yung hindi naintindihan na mali to? Tatanda ba tayong lahat at magiging “nation of plagiarizers”?

    Not saying he should forego his career, but that people shouldn’t give him a free pass at “intindihin na lang” dahil siya si Alfred Yuson, award-winning writer. Hindi ba dapat mas vigilant tayo sa mga established na kasi mas may alam sila? Sila yung nagpi-preach sa younger writers di ba, tapos sila pa yung bad example. How do you think that makes us feel? We worked so goddamned hard tapos may mga taong katulad niya na na-violate lahat ng tinuro sa amin na wag na wag gagawin.

    He should realize the gravity of what he did. Kasama sa pagtatag ng karera mo bilang writer yung reputation mo, at pagiging responsible mo, ergo buong buhay mo binubuo yung prinsipyo na hindi ka magpe-plagiarize. So bakit inhumane ang hingin sa kaniya na panindigan niya yung ginawa niya?

    Isipin mo nga, kung teacher ko siya. Pag may assignment magpe-plagiarize ako. At pag nahuli ako, ang reason ko, “Sorry, ser, pagod kasi ako kagabi eh. Dami ko deadline. Dami ko gawa. Di ko yan sinasadya talaga. As in. Sana maintindihan niyo ko.” O anong gagawin niya? Paparusahan niya ako? Hindi ba ang hypocrite niya pag ganon? Eh kung hayaan niya na lang, kasi nagkamali rin siya before, hindi ba kino-condone niya ang plagiarism?

    Yan kasi yung pinasok niya na sitwasyon. Kaya sana he doesn’t make light of it, and he shouldn’t try to pass off all those excuses as a form of sincere apology, kasi frankly, it’s all bullshit.

    One thing na gusto ko pa i-address sa mga tao: plagiarism is stealing. Seryoso siyang offense. Hindi yan nadadaan sa sorry. Kasingbigat niya ang panloloob sa bahay ng iba, ang pagkidnap sa isang tao. Plagiarism is the act of stealing someone’s intellectual property. Sa ibang bansa mabigat ang repercussions para sa isang plagiarizer.

    And for someone who has been a writer for so many years, sobrang laking bagay nito. Hindi dapat pagbigyan si Krip Yuson dahil nag-sorry siya agad. The fact still remains na nagnakaw siya. The writing community shouldn’t be “gentle” with Krip Yuson. Yung outrage na pinadama kay Manny Pangilinan, dapat ganun din sa kaniya. Wag tayong double standard. Hindi honest mistake ang ginawa niya. Ang tawag dun, being irresponsible.

    Yun lang. Sorry kung mahaba. Pero bilang writer affected talaga ako. At bilang baguhan at batang writer, mas worried ako. Lalo na sa silence ng community. Dahil ba si Krip Yuson siya? Pano na pag isa sa mga maliliit na tao ang gumawa nito? Naiinis ako na dahil kilala siya yung iba kakampihan siya. It makes you think kung paano din yung situation/social status ng “lit cirlce” dito.

  12. ina
    April 14, 2011 at 6:10 am

    @samuel: tama ka, hindi benta ang excuse ni Yuson dahil ang tagal na niyang nagsusulat, he should know better, he must be more intelligent than saying “akala ko akin na ‘yon kase inedit ko eh.” which makes me think that this was borne talaga more of hubris. feeling ko may anggulo ito na akala niya hindi siya mahuhuli, sino ba namang nagbabasa ng sports section, at ng Rogue Magazine? nagbabasa kay Rey Joble at sa sosyal na magasin? sa tingin ko hindi naisip na may firequinito na interesado sa sports, at online, at makikita ang ganitong glaring act of plagiarism.

    at oo, walang excuse, walang palusot. dapat sorry tapos mag-early retirement na. dapat sorry tapos disappear, for a while, come back in a different capacity: huwag as teacher or writer or editor, talong-talo siya do’n, talong-talo tayong lahat do’n. sa tingin ko ang pagpapalusot sa kanya ay isang napakasakit at nakakasulasok na statement sa estado ng kultura sa bansang ito. pero yun nga, sino bang may pakialam ano? at kung tayo-tayo lang, does it matter at all to Krip and the ones who protect him. maybe not.

    • Samuel
      April 15, 2011 at 12:50 pm

      Disappointed ako sa reaction ng ‘lit circle’ in general. Or well, lit circle sa Maynila. Parang walang nangyari. Or, yung ibang akala ko sobrang laki ng balls eh kumakampi rin pala kay Krip. Isang malaking WTF sa akin yan. Kasi parang lumalabas tuloy lahat ng pinag-aralan ko, lahat ng mga natutunan ko sa mga mentor, mga matatanda nang writer, feeling ko nabalewala lahat. Ngayon parang lokohan na lang.

      Pag writer ka ang meron ka lang naman yung salita mo e. Yung mga sinulat mo. Yan yung puhunan natin di ba? Tapos para gawin mo yun…parang dinuraan mo sa mukha lahat ng writer na hanggang ngayon nagsisikap pa rin, naghihirap pa rin, yung hindi pa nararating yung level of success niya, pero sumisige pa rin, pero honest in every way. Intact yung integrity. Maski subsob sa deadline, maski mas overworked pa kesa sa kaniya, maski minsan nga wala pang byline, basta hindi magnanakaw ng gawa ng iba.

      Ang dating kasi sa akin nun, “O eh ako si Krip Yuson kaya kahit ano kaya ko gawin. Kaya ko magplagiarize at kaya kong maging tamad sa pagsusulat kasi ako si Krip Yuson. And the world will forgive me because I am Krip Yuson. Who gives a f*ck what you think? The people who matter still loves me because I am Krip Yuson.”

      So pano na ngayon? Anong ibig sabihin ng pagkampi ng iba sa kaniya? Ano ang implikasyon nun? Ano ang dapat nating isipin na ibang nagsusulat? Anong ibig sabihin kapag di tayo sang-ayon sa ginawa niya?

      Dismayado ako in the sense na…credible pa ba ang magsulat dito sa Pilipinas? Kung kaya natin tanggapin yung ganito, which should be a grave offense, which we should condemn, ibig sabihin ba mababa standards natin, o double standard tayo, or what? How do I reconcile yung mga natutunan ko about plagiarism vs yung behavior ng karamihan ng writers ngayon na kino-condone si Krip?

      • ina
        May 7, 2011 at 2:11 am

        samuel, napakaganda ng tanong na: anong implikasyon ng pagkampi ng iba sa kanya?

        mahirap ireconcile ang katahimikan sa plagiarism na ito, at ang usapin ng plagiarism bilang isang kahindik-hindik na offense lalo na para sa manunulat. mas tanggap ko pa nga ang nagplagiarize na hindi writer, na hindi pinagkakakitaan ang pagsusulat, at least yon, may excuse of not being a writer.

        pero kung writer ka at nagplagiarize ka, wala ka rin respete sa sarili mong propesyon. kung writer ka at ok lang sa’yo na nagplagiarize ang friend mo na writer din, what does that say about writing in good ol’ pinas.

        ang lungkot.

  13. Stuffy
    April 19, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Ms. Radikalchick: You did it again! Speaking the plain truth and making damn sense!! Very, very impressed….For the second time, let’s get married? How ’bout it?


    • ina
      May 7, 2011 at 1:38 am

      dear Stuffy, i missed your second proposal by virtue of having been a negligent blogger. i don’t know that you’d want to marry someone like me.



  14. Shai
    May 2, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Late ako mag-comment lagi sa mga isyu para mas may distansya. Kaya eto. :) The last time I ever heard of an editor re-writing someone else’s piece and then putting in her byline was in fourth year high school, for our school paper. That was nine years ago, and committed by a fifteen-year-old student. That Krip would do the same, well, nakapagtataka rin talaga na napaka-hush hush ng mga tao about the issue and it died pretty quickly, samantalang may isang fashion blogger na nagbigay lang ng opinion niya that the country is not that fashion-forward and the online and print backlash went on for months. Ano’ng meron at napaka-forgiving natin sa plagiarism? Is it because most of us are ashamed to admit we’re guilty of it?
    2. “yet we also know that in the face of deadlines, the choice is easy: will you plagiarize in the midst of deadlines? or will you admit to being human, tao lang sorry, and say you need an extension? or maybe you’ll just miss the deadline, do a darn good job at the submission anyway, that you’ll be forgiven for being late?”
    Naka-relate ako dun sa second and third choices. Those were my actual answers to Sir Howie’s question to me on dealing with deadlines a few years back. I would never use the pressure of deadlines as an excuse for anything.
    3. Great read. Now back to my article. Deadline nito today.

    • ina
      May 7, 2011 at 1:41 am

      hi Shai!

      sorry for missing this comment, been crazy hectic too, you know how deadlines are. :)

      and yes to the double standard in favor of Krip. it’s soooo obvious here really, and I don’t think it’s that they forgive plagiarism, it’s WHO has committed it. which is just sad for literature and the academe, but also for culture in general.

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