24 September 2013

A Shameful Act with a Plagiarized Photo

Mark Joseph Solis
Mark Joseph Solis, a political science graduate of the University of the Philippines who is currently studying public administration in the same school, won US$ 1,000 plus round-trip air fare and accommodations to Chile and Brazil for the entry he called "The Mettle of the Filipino Spirit." The event was sponsored by the Chilean Ambassador, Roberto Mayorga.

Unfortunately, the amateur photographer submitted a photo entry that was not his, but belonged to a Brazil-based social worker.

The contest was supposed to celebrate uniquely Filipino human qualities or calidad humana. However, after the story came out, Gregory John Smith, a social entrepreneur with the global network Ashoka and founder of the Children at Risk Foundation in Brazil, said it was his photo.

"The photo was actually taken by me in Brazil in 2006, whilst on Christmas holidays at the coast together with four brothers from the same poverty-stricken family in Brazil, who were supported by our program at the time," Smith told GMA News Online. "The photo was taken by me on a beach in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, whilst the kids were having fun chucking seaweed at each other."

"I’m deeply sorry. I'm in deep remorse. Right now, I already contacted the organizers and I'm about to contact the owner to personally convey to him my deepest and personal apology," Solis told Rappler.

In a comment he posted on Rappler, Smith suggested that Ambassador Mayorga give the prize instead to his foundation, which also helps children in the Philippines. He added that he would be visiting Manila early next year for a project in Manila’s Smokey Mountain.

At the Narinig ko sa UP (Overheard at UP) Facebook page, UP students expressed shock and anger at the apparent plagiarism. It was also learned that allegedly this is not the first time that Solis joined and won a photo contest with photos taken by other people.

He sent the same photo to the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation photo contest. The caption stated this time that the child was from India.

Another photo he entered into the same contest was also from the Children At Risk Foundations' Flickr album.

A saddened Mayorga told reporters that he would meet with the other principal sponsors of the contest, among them UP, to decide their next move. He said he believed Solis did not represent the majority of Filipinos.

The profile of Solis on the Voices Against Corruption site says that "he served as a regional intern in 2009 at the World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific, where he handled youth forums and social outreach initiatives, and then joined the ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation as a social media desk cadet in the summer of 2010. A year after, Solis received the JENESYS Student Ambassadorial Grant from the Japanese Government-Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was also awarded a debate scholarship to Thailand by the Open Society Institute and International Debate Education Association. This year, he was named a Tunza Eco-generation Regional Ambassador for Southeast Asia by the United National Environment Programme."

The site also described Solis as a "prolific academic writer, whose papers have already been presented in several international conferences in South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, and the Philippines. Recently, his thesis entitled 'Confronting Notoriety: The Rise of Warlordism and the Road to Peace in Southern Philippines' received a grant from the Southeast Asian Human Rights Studies Network (SEAHRN) and is bound for presentation in this year’s SEAHRN International Conference on Peace and Conflict in Jakarta, Indonesia."

The question is, which among those papers and achievements were also plagiarized?