After the majority of the Supreme Court Justices absolved their colleague Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo for plagiarism as regards to the majority decision he penned on the Vinuya et al vs. Executive Secretary case involving the Filipina comfort women asking the Japanese government for compensation, the highest court of the land is committing another grave mistake of asking all the UP law professors who spilled the beans of Castillo’s unforgivable act to explain themselves why they should not warrant a sanction.  On a 10-3 vote, the Supreme Court is asking 37 UP law professors including its dean to explain why they should not be sanctioned for violating the Code of Professional Responsibility of Lawyers.  This came about after the lawyers of the comfort women included in the 37 UP law professors asked for the resignation of Associate Justice Castillo.

The Plagiarism Issue

On the Vinuya et al vs. Executive Secretary on April 28, 2010, the Supreme Court denied the plea of the comfort women during World War II from asking compensation from the Japanese government as victims of sexual slavery.  The majority decision was penned by Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo.

Upon receipt of the decision, the lawyers of the victims that included UP law professor Harry Roque reviewed the decision and discovered lines and entire paragraphs lifted from different foreign sources some of which are from “Enforcing Erga Omnes Obligations in International Law” by Christian Tams, Breaking the Silence on Rape as an International Crime” by Mark Ellis, and “A Fiduciary of Theory of Jus Cogens” by Evan Criddle and Evan Fox-Descent.”  More startling is that the lawyers discovered that Associate Justice Del Castillo made a different interpretation of the ideas from the sources he did not cite saying that sexual slavery with which our comfort women suffered from during the WWII is not a higher law and may not compel nations to seek compensation and legal remedy against any perpetrator of the purported crime.

Of the decision he has penned, there were about 22 identified distinct texts lifted from sources that the associate justice had not even bothered to cite.

Del Castillo Absolved by a Supreme Kangaroo Court?

With all the fuss, the Supreme Court conducted its own investigation of the purported plagiarism committed by their colleague and ruled out on October 15, 2010 that charges against Del Castillo are dismissed “for lack of merit… the charges of plagiarism, twisting of cited materials and gross neglect against” despite 22 texts and even whole paragraphs copied without attribution.  The Supreme Court has absolved their colleague saying that they did not find any “malicious intent” on the part of the Associate Justice.

For Del Castillo’s part, he defended himself with the lamest excuse coming from an Associate Justice saying that it was his legal researcher who had failed to include two citations and that his computer does not have the program to warn him that he is already plagiarizing his decision on a very controversial case.  (Huwaat?!)

The UP Law Professsors then were outraged and issued a statement as regards to the result of the SC investigation on the plagiarism issue but were then immediately threatened by the SC to be cited for contempt.

Legitimizing Plagiarism and Judicial Vengeance

The issue of first absolving an associate justice for a clear act of plagiarism makes the Supreme Court of the Philippines a laughing stock among legal communities as one of its most controversial decisions was plagiarized and sadder if not more confusing is the twisted interpretation that one of its member rendered on the decision based on his sources.  The lame excuse of Microsoft has not alerted Associate Justice Del Castillo all the more gives the public a quick impression that the associate justice himself does not have the intellectual judgment or intellectual diligence to know that he is already plagiarizing or not; and would only rely on a computer program on making an honest Supreme Court decision.  This is the line of reasoning we usually hear from college students when caught without making proper attributions on their term papers, but for heaven’s sake, the Supreme Court is far from being a pack of some lazy college students.

Associate Justice Lourdes Sereno succinctly put the issue of plagiarism and its effect this way,

“The majority decision will thus stand against the overwhelming conventions on what constitutes plagiarism. In doing so, the decision has created unimaginable problems for Philippine academia, which will from now on have to find a disciplinary response to plagiarism committed by students and researchers on the justification of the majority decision.”

Now, this makes plagiarism legal as long people who are accused of doing it say the following reason:  my research assistants has failed to put proper attributions; my computer has not told me I was already plagiarizing; I did not have any malicious intent on copying other’s work without attribution; and when worse comes to worse and a legal case is filed against someone who has been accused of plagiarism or violating the intellectual property code, use the Supreme Court decision over the issue of plagiarism on Associate Justice Del Castillo as one of your defense on sources of legal precedence.

The second issue of the UP Law Professors receiving judicial vengeance sends a chilling effect not only to lawyers but also to all those who are vigilant enough to always take a close look at the Supreme Court.  These people, who by their oath as lawyers are tasked to uphold the truth and by their license as educators are called to enlighten the minds on what is right, just and wise, are out to suffer from institutional persecution and from a hurting institutional ego – a big no-no for democratic society.

The action of the Supreme Court undermines the freedom of people to speak up and academic freedom that educators are bestowed with.  With such a move, majority of the Supreme Court Justices has seemingly fortified its walls as an impenetrable institution and at the same time made the impression of acting like a little kid who will immediately throw a punch at someone who gets his lollipop.

The Supreme Court Justices should get back to business and stop all these non-sense arrogant display of power over those people who are speaking what is true, right and proper.

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