LICENSE TO PLAGIARIZE
By Rodel Rodis
INQUIRER.netFirst Posted 10:35:00 10/21/2010
Re-posted from Inquirer Global Nation
CALIFORNIA, United States—Thanks to the Philippine Supreme Court of Midnight Chief Justice Renato Corona, Filipinos now enjoy a “right” unlike any bestowed anywhere else in the world.
Filipinos are now free to copy the words and thoughts of other authors without attribution and without fear of being charged with plagiarism unless the accuser can prove “malicious intent.”
This new “right” was promulgated by the Supreme Court on October 15, 2010 in the Matter of the Charges of Plagiarism against Associate Justice Mariano C. Del Castillo where the court majority voted to absolve their colleague of plagiarism charges for including in his ruling entire paragraphs lifted directly from foreign sources without attribution.
The charges of plagiarism arose when Del Castillo wrote the majority decision in the case of Vinuya et al vs. Executive Secretary, issued on April 28, 2010, where he denied the petition of the Philippine comfort women for a writ of mandate to compel the Philippine government to ask Tokyo to provide compensation to those who were victims of sexual slavery by Japanese occupation forces during World War II.
After reviewing Del Castillo’s ruling, the lawyers of the comfort women discovered that “Ponente” (decision author) Del Castillo had lifted entire paragraphs of his decision from three sources: “A Fiduciary of Theory of Jus Cogens” by Evan Criddle and Evan Fox-Descent, “Breaking the Silence on Rape as an International Crime” by Mark Ellis, and “Enforcing Erga Omnes Obligations in International Law” by Christian Tams.
While using those foreign sources, Del Castillo drew the opposite conclusion and ruled that sexual slavery during WW II was not a “Jus Cogens,” a “higher law,” like prohibiting genocide or the slave trade, which may not be violated by any country.
Perhaps it was precisely this contraposition that explains why Del Castillo chose not to cite the foreign sources.
In its October 15, 2010 decision, the Court dismissed “for lack of merit… the charges of plagiarism, twisting of cited materials and gross neglect against [Del Castillo]” because the Court found that their colleague did not have “malicious intent” when he copied the passages from foreign sources
The Court accepted Del Castillo’s feeble excuse that his legal researcher had inadvertently dropped off two citations in the footnotes. Two may be a little understandable but Del Castillo blatantly lifted 22 distinct passages from the foreign sources without attribution.
The Justices also accepted Del Castillo’s lame argument that his computer was not equipped with a software program that would warn him that he was plagiarizing. (Students, take note of this creative “it’s Microsoft’s fault” excuse).
In her separate dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, Associate Justice Lourdes Sereno (the lone Aquino appointee on the Court) declared that Del Castillo had indeed committed plagiarism in drafting and passing the decision in the Vinuya case. “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.”
Justice Sereno further added: “It has also undermined the protection of copyrighted work by making available to plagiarists ‘lack of malicious intent’ as a defense to a charge of violation of copy or economic rights of the copyright owner committed through lack of attribution.”
Justice Sereno expressed her regret that the effect of the majority decision was to render Philippine intellectual property laws virtually “meaningless.”
The faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Law immediately expressed its outrage at the majority decision of the Court. “In common parlance, ‘plagiarism’ is the appropriation and misrepresentation of another person’s work as one’s own,” the faculty statement read. “In the field of writing, it is cheating at best, and stealing at worst. It constitutes a taking of someone else’s ideas and expressions, including all the effort and creativity that went into committing such ideas and expressions into writing, and then making it appear that such ideas and expressions were originally created by the taker. It is dishonesty, pure and simple.”
“A judicial system that allows plagiarism in any form is one that allows dishonesty. Since all judicial decisions form part of the law of the land, to allow plagiarism in the Supreme Court is to allow the production of laws by dishonest means. Evidently, this is a complete perversion and falsification of the ends of justice.”
In response to this denunciation, the Supreme Court threatened to cite the UP Faculty for contempt for making a “sub judice” comment as Philippine lawyers are prohibited from commenting on active cases before the court.
As I am not a Philippine-licensed attorney, the Philippine Supreme Court cannot cite me for contempt so I can freely declare what my “companeros” in the Philippines may not dare say. The majority members of this Court, all GMA appointees, are contemptible for making “a complete perversion and falsification of the ends of justice.”
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