Philippines: Novelist Mired in Plagiarism Controversy

Alfred “Krip” Yuson, an award-winning Filipino novelist, achieved notoriety for allegedly plagiarizing an article by his subordinate in a mainstream news agency. The renowned writer was caught lifting whole passages in a Rogue Magazine sports article from a report by Rey Joble for GMA News Online. This was first brought into public scrutiny by sports blogger Jaemark Tordecilla of Fire Quinito.

Yuson admitted committing plagiarism in an apology emailed to Torcedilla and in a subsequent column article he wrote for a national broadsheet. But this apology came with qualifiers saying:

I may have mistakenly thought that since I had rewritten Rey Joble's draft for GMANews online, I was at least part-author of it. While that is moot, I should at the very least have credited Rey for the original draft.

I know I'll be raked over the coals — for having joined the list of perpetrators of plagiarism. I will just have to bear the blows.

Maybe I've gotten too old and jaded, maybe I'm overworked, maybe deadline pressure got to me.

…the quotation marks and initial attribution to Rey Joble and GMANews Online were dropped, intentionally by me as the marks made the chunk look so clunky. I thought I’d work the credits back in somehow, once I was about to finalize the submission for Rogue. That didn’t happen, and that’s my grievous fault.

The Radikal Chick comments that Yuson's the issue opens a can of worms about writing and editorship in the Philippines:

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.

The Center or Media Freedom and Responsibility said that Yuson's flimsy excuses legitimize plagiarism by giving the false impression “that using portions of another person’s work one has edited makes the editor part author of what he’s edited”:

An apology would have sufficed; making excuses is just too much. And it isn’t true either that “when it comes to journalism,” “there seems to be a more liberal view of propriety”. Plagiarism is plagiarism, whether committed in an academic setting, in newspaper pages, over radio and TV, or online.

A collective statement by the online art community Interlineall rhetorically asks how Yuson would feel if he was given a dose of his own medicine:

Were Yuson to discover that a protégé had plagiarized his poetry in order to “arrive over and over // again at art” [1], would he accept from that student what he now expects us to swallow hook, line, and sinker? Or does Yuson ultimately rely on his formidable store of cultural capital to save him in the same way that a wealthy criminal depends on his money to keep him out of jail?

In a rejoinder to his own original expose and Yuson's apology statement, Toredecilla said:

The sad thing is that a lot of people, myself included, were just willing to let Yuson save face after this whole issue. After all, he’s this respected writer, and didn’t we all read – or at least pretend to read – “The Great Philippine Jungle Energy Café” back in college?

But in this morning’s column, Yuson betrays his contempt for his readers, whom he expects to be stupid enough to buy his insipid arguments. We couldn’t just let Krip Yuson get away with this again, right?

The column reeks of hubris – the arrogance of Yuson getting away with his offense simply because of who he is and what he’s done – the very same hubris that made him think he could get away with plagiarizing Rey Joble’s work for his Rogue Magazine article.

Stuart-Santiago meanwhile blogs that the mainstream media and cultural institutions’ all-too-easy “forgive and forget” stance towards the plagiarism scandal is reflective of the larger context of impunity plaguing the country:

so again i ask, what does it say of our mainstream media, our academic institutions, and our literary culture when a krip yuson is allowed to go on as if nothing happened? as if plagiarism by a much-admired writer is forgivable. microcosm of the macrocosm? if danding cojuangco can get away with the coconut levy funds, if the marcoses can get away with plunder and human rights violations, if jocjoc bolante can get away with a fertilizer scam, if gma can get away with hello-garci and extrajudicial killings, if the aquinos can get away with hacienda luisita, if the supreme court can get away with partisanship and plagiarism, if the bishops can get away with lying about sex and reproduction, if angelo reyes can get away with suicide, why not krip yuson with plagiarism?

An open letter circulated online challenges the “Philippine writing community” to take a stand against Yuson's plagiarism. In a way, this incident shows how new media can serve to check and balance traditional media. At the very least, the scandal over his plagiarism has cost him his editorial position with GMA News Online.

Image source for the thumbnail image is from the Centre for Creative Arts, University of KwaZulu-Natal

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