Mark Joseph Solis

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Mark Joseph Solis is a Filipino political science graduate, cum laude, of the University of the Philippines (UP) who is currently studying public administration at the National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG) also in UP. He is an amateur photographer who is currently on the news after plagiarizing prize-winning photographs.

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Background

Solis enrolled only this semester of the Academic Year 2013-2014 in the MPA program of NCPAG. He is a member of the International Association for Political Science Students (IAPSS). He is a member of the editorial board of one of IAPPS' publications. He is also a member of the UP Debate Society and competed in the Asian debating circuit.

Solis worked for the Philippine Society for Public Administration (PSPA), a non-profit organization which is dedicated to the improvement of public service.

From 2010 to 2011, Solis was a JASSO exchange student to the Faculty of Law of Japan's Kyushu University where he finished courses on Japanese Studies and Comparative Politics of Asia.

Solis has won various awards and scholarships. In 2010, he was awarded the International Debate Education Association scholarship to Thailand and the JENESYS Student Ambassadorial grant to Japan. In 2012, he was recognized by the Knights of Rizal as one of the country's top 10 students.

Solis used to be a legislative staff of Senator Pia Cayetano. He worked there for three months.


Controversy

According to posts on the “Narinig ko sa UP” (Overheard at UP) Facebook Page where UP students expressed shock and anger at the apparent plagiarism, Solis had done the incident at least 5 times since 2011.

Solis has recently won the top prize in the “Smiles for the World” photo contest which was conceptualized by Chilean Ambassador Roberto Mayorga. The photo which Solis claimed came under intense scrutiny on social networks on 22 September 2013 after the real owner of the photograph, Gregory John Smith, revealed how an impostor abused his copyright.

Solis was awarded USD 1,000 and roundtrip tickets to Chile and Brazil during Chile's National Day, September 18, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) for a photo of a boy from Zamboanga who helped his father farm seaweed.

Smith is a social entrepreneur and founder of the Children at Risk Foundation to which the photo belongs. He said that the child in the photo was from Brazil and not from Zamboanga. He pointed to his Flickr account which contained the same photo along with other photos of children in Brazil.

This incident was not the first time that Solis used someone else's photo for his personal gain. He also sent Smith's photo to the United Nations International Year of Water Cooperation contest. In the said contest, the caption he used for the photo was that the child was from India. He also sent another photo from the Children At Risk Foundation's Flickr album into the same contest.

In 2011, he also entered and won the first “Papworth Trust's” photo competition using a photo from a Flickr user who took the photo in 2008.

Solis also entered three photos, stolen from Flickr accounts, to a sustainable development photo contest hosted by VinylPlus, a European Union Company.

He also joined a photo contest hosted by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in 2011. The original photo of his false entry can be found on Flickr. It even had a watermark on it.

In an interview with Rappler, Solis said that he was deeply sorry and in deep remorse. He said that he contacted the organizers and as well as the owner of the photo to personally convey his apology. Solis posted on Scribd a letter of apology to Smith and admitted to passing off Smith's photograph as his own as he was driven by his “youth, lack of experience and the inability to see the repercussions of my actions.”

The Chilean Embassy announced, after Solis' admission, that it was taking back the prizes awarded to Solis and considers taking legal action against him. Solis, on the other hand, has not yet returned the money and issued an appeal that he be allowed to keep it to help ease his family's financial problems. Maricris Valte, a concerned netizen who used to work with Solis, however claimed the UP fact-finding committee to conduct a lifestyle check on Solis.

The UP NCPAG dean Ma. Fe Mendoza said in an interview with Inquirer that a fact-finding committee from UP will investigate the matter to know the facts to be able to recommend what course of action will be taken regarding Solis' case as well as what the college can do to prevent that kind of unfortunate event.

Although plagiarism is a grave offense at the state university and is punishable by expulsion and the stripping of one’s degree, Mendoza said that Solis' case was a “grey area” as it was not committed within the confines of the university.

By 4 October 2013, the committee is expected to submit its findings to Mendoza.


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