Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Catch 22 That is Mark Solis

Forgive my hard stance on this one.

I cringe over the new word netizens have coined the last few days inspired by one Mark Joseph Solis – “SOLISIFIED”. The word became synonymous to plagiarism.

The photo that earned him the fame but was not his in the first place (
Solis, a graduate student at UP’s National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP NCPAG) admitted to using other people’s work to enter photo contests and for which he recently won the top prize. He earned public ire last week when social entrepreneur and founder of Children at Risk Foundation Gregory John Smith came forward and cried foul, saying that “an impostor... abused my copyright.” Rappler reported that 22-year old Solis submitted an entry to the Smiles for the World photo contest to celebrate Chile’s National Day on September 18. The photo of a smiling boy “Nilo” from "Zamboanga City" who was captioned as helping his father in a seaweed farm bagged first place along with the $1,000 and round trip tickets to Chile and Brazil. No less than Chilean Ambassador to the Philippines Roberto Mayorga handed the prize to a beaming Solis during the awarding ceremony.

Apparently, the prize-winning photo was not taken in Zamboanga, although I admit there are a lot of seaweed farms there, but in Brazil as clarified by Mr. Smith in a statement.

Reports say that this is not the first time Solis plagiarized photographs to enter contests. Since 2011, he has been using images download from different individuals’ Flickr accounts.

Following the social media uproar, he has written the owner and issued a public apology and promised to return the prize money, claiming that he was “driven by my youth, lack of experience and inability to see the repercussions of my actions.”

Chilean Ambassador Roberto Mayorga and Mark Joseph Solis after winning in the Smiles for the World photo contest (
When interviewed by Rappler, Solis said him apologizing publicly took the “moral high ground” and that everything else he achieved in his life will go to waste over these mistakes.

I do not want to add insult to the injury but I can’t help but be appalled over Solis’ serial and blatant plagiarism. And no, I will not subscribe to him blaming his youth and lack of foresight not to know the ramifications of his action. This is a guy who has been a recipient of scholarship grants to Japan and Thailand, a member of the UP Debate Society and until June was a legislative staff member of Sen. Pia Cayetano. It does not take a rocket scientist or a septuagenarian to know that stealing is a sin and theft is a crime. One does not have to finish a master’s degree in order to understand and imbibe the basic rules of the universe.

Wisdom they say comes with age, but I’ll be willing to bet my money that there are people younger than him lucid enough to know that the end does not justify the means. That the money and round trip travel are not acceptable reasons to use other’s work for fame and fortune. Youth is not necessarily evil. When I was 22, I was giddy and frivolous and can’t wait to see what this world has in store for me. That energy and drive prodded me to take in as much as I can from people that I came across with, people who became my mentors without them knowing or some, hoping that I can at least get near to that they have become or achieved. From them I saw the value of passion coupled with hard work. Those are what make you a force to reckon with.

There is no substitute for experience I agree. Success is never a straight line but rather full of sharp turns and curves. It entails continuous honing of skills, of evolving and being gung ho for more learning and discovery. It should not be equated with time or the speed by which you got to where you eye yourself to be. When we want to railroad the process, when a person becomes addicted to the accolades and succumbs to the lure of fame, it is when we find ourselves looking for shortcuts. In the case of Solis, it was going to web, creeping around for good photos on Flickr to claim as his.

The Catch 22 of this story is that in his intense desire to win and be above everyone else, the courses of action and decisions he took were the ones that pulled him down. A good case of misguided passion.

I do not know if he would still have the chance to rectify his wrongs and turn a new leaf. Perhaps he needs to look inside himself and do a check on his personal values. I always believe in second chances and if he would be fortunate to have one, he will use this experience to make young people like him realize that at the end of the day, the rat that finishes first in the rat race is still a rat. And those words are not mine, by the way.

I will end this by quoting one of the most unforgettable movie characters from my youth, Mr. Kesuke Miyagi of the Karate Kid. “Ambition without knowledge is like a boat on dry land.”

And this knowledge is knowing right from wrong and choosing to do what is good and honorable sans the lights and fame.
Read Mark Solis' letter of apology here.

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