THERE really is no delicate, or elegant, way to say this: alternative news website Bulatlat.com copied from an article I wrote for the website I work for, acknowledged it after I pointed it out, and then kept the plagiarized paragraphs in the story anyway. [UPDATE: As of 4:59 p.m., Bulatlat.com has deleted the paragraphs. I have screencaps from today, though.]
On January 4, I wrote a short article on Senator Aquilino Pimentel III criticizing the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) for raising annual premiums for Overseas Filipino Workers to P2,400 from P900. It was badly-written, hastily-researched, and probably submitted past deadline, but there you go.
Despite that, it seemed to give enough background for Bulatlat.com writer Ina Alleco R. Silverio for her January 13 story on what OFW rights group Migrante thought of the increase. (They say it is a terrible idea, and unjust.) It was apparently also good enough for her to leave these paragraphs in her story:
An advisory released by PhilHealth in December promised OFWs “a new set of enhanced benefits designed to improve financial risk protection for all members.”
Among the benefits that PhilHealth has promised under its Universal Health Care program are coverage of the cost of anti-hypertensives, anti-diabetics, and antibiotics. Eventually, PhilHealth said, it will offer preventive and diagnostic services “at no cost to the member.” PhilHealth currently covers in-patient, but not out-patient treatment.
On January 16, I saw the headline for the story on my Twitter feed and clicked on the link and found out that Migrante was concerned that the higher premiums will be an added burden to our OFWs and that part of my story had been copy-pasted onto the Bulatlat.com story. I tweeted about it but didn’t do anything about it for a while. I mean, what can you do, really, when you see something like that? You have to lie down for a while and think things through.
Things thought through:
1. Why should I bring it up? Do I hate OFWs? Do I want them to pay more for their health insurance? Who would want that?
2. Who am I to bring it up? I’m just a rookie reporter who writes for a network of newspapers (and their website) in the provinces. The people I’m going to accuse of copying from me do important things like standing up for OFWs and laborers and indigenous peoples. Do I hate OFWs, laborers, and indigenous peoples?
3. What the hell, man? I applied for a job there a few years ago. I can’t do this to them!
4.And it’s only a paragraph I wrote for context, it’s not like it was material from some exclusive interview done in the hinterlands that I had to be escorted to by the Philippine Army. What do a few sentences matter?
5. The writing isn’t even that good.
6. And what did I mean when I said PhilHealth doesn’t cover out-patient treatment? Did I mean consultations with doctors? Because it says right there on the PhilHealth website that they cover “day surgeries, dialysis and cancer treatment procedures such as chemotheraphy and radiotheraphy in accredited hospitals and free-standing clinics.” Did I mean to say something else entirely?
But I did eventually send Bulatlat.com an e-mail about it to tell them that Ms. Silverio may have accidentally left the paragraphs in. “I am sure that this was inadvertent and that Ms. Silverio probably used my article for background on the issue and meant to paraphrase the paragraphs. Perhaps due to the limits of working under deadline, she simply forgot,” I said.
And then said again, since I sent the e-mail again on January 15 to both e-mail addresses that Bulatlat.com lists on their website. On January 16, Mr. Benjie Oliveros, Bulatlat.com managing editor, replied, saying they would “call her attention to this unintentional mistake. if she used your article as background, she should have given you proper attribution. Please be rest assured that this would not happen again.”
And, really, that was that. Face was kept and the day was saved. Except, as of January 19, the story on their wesbite still reads the same. And, well, I guess he never did say he would take the paragraphs out, I just assumed that.