UP should ponder whether it wants to be memorialized by a work of plagiarism


THE sculptor Fernando Cacnio rubbed salt on the injury by calling his sculpture “Uplift” and passing it off as original. In doing so, Cacnio doubled the shame for UP alumni and students, and for the administration and faculty of the University of the Philippines.

The word “uplift” means: 1) To move something to a higher position; 2) To raise to a higher position or status; and 3) To raise the spirits of.

What Cacnio’s sculpture does instead is lower and deflate the prestige and image of the nation’s premier university. “Uplift” should not be construed in any manner as a piece of work that can stand alongside the “Oblation,” the iconic sculpture by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, and presume to also represent the university. That is an affront.

Concerning the issue first of plagiarism, all it takes is one look at Elisabet Stienstra’s original sculpture in Amsterdam, “The Virgins of Apeldoorn,” and a comparison with “Uplift,” for an impartial and objective observer to conclude that the Cacnio sculpture is indubitably a copy or imitation of the other.

Miss Stienstra has herself declared that she would like it to be known that she sees Mr. Cacnio’s sculpture as plagiarism.

Explaining her point, her husband said: “The principle of her work (made in 2001) is to use sculptural conventions to suggest weightlessness. Mr. Cacnio’s sculpture does not only imitate her idea in general terms, but also in specific terms: the long hanging hair, the falling-back head, the outstretched arms, the outstretched body. The similarities are too evident to be coincidental. Plagiarism is still plagiarism even if a few details have been altered.”

Instead of admitting his mistake and dishonesty (“Uplift” was unveiled in 2007), Cacnio together with some sympathizers have tried to defend his handiwork, preposterously claiming that what he has done is original in its own right.

The effort at justification and rationalization compounds the error and dishonesty. It has gratuitously added the honor of the university and the country to the stakes.

There’s no forum anywhere in the planet that will pronounce Cacnio’s deed as legitimate or fair. Miss Stienstra’s right to vindication will be affirmed.

Instead of allowing the issue to fester further in a false debate, we believe it is time for responsible Filipino officials to step in and bring this issue to an end.

We suggest that the UP administration convene a panel to look at the controversy at length, determine whether “Uplift” is a work of plagiarism according to the laws of copyright, patent and standards of artistic work, and then decide whether the sculpture should be further displayed in and allowed to represent the university.

Action on this matter should be promptly undertaken. No one should forget that we have had to contend with serious plagiarism charges on other fronts. Correction now will help to avert the thought that plagiarism may be a cultural failing of Filipinos.


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