The Manila Times: Dear Justices, where is justice?
Dear Justices, where is justice?
by: Harvey S. Keh
The Manila Times
Last Saturday, I had a chance to ask a very good lawyer friend of mine about this recent plagiarism controversy that the Supreme Court (SC) and the University of the Philippines’ College of Law are currently involved in. I asked her how come it was such a big issue for the Supreme Court that the UP College of Law exercised its right to free speech by asking for the resignation of SC Associate Justice Mariano Del Castillo who was charged with plagiarism in the Vinuya-Comfort women decision that he penned.For those who may not know, this case was about a petition by a surviving Filipina “comfort woman” to seek an apology and remuneration from the Japanese government for its abuses during World War II.
My friend told me that anything that challenges the SC’s integrity or that of any member of it for that matter is a big issue since integrity and moral ascendancy are their main foundations as an institution. Yet, she agrees with me that this does not give SC associate justices the right to do any illegal act and threaten complaining parties such as the UP College of Law with contempt.
I believe that something wrong happened within the Supreme Court when Justice Del Castillo failed to do his homework by not properly citing the sources of his written decision. For those who have gone through the tons of research paper that is required in high school and college, proper citation of sources is one of the first basic things that is taught to us. At the Ateneo de Manila University where I teach, students who are caught plagiarizing whether intentionally or not are automatically asked to leave the school.
More recently, our then chairman of the board, Manuel V. Pangilinan resigned from his post when it was found that parts of the graduation speech he delivered to the class of 2010 were copied from the past speeches of JK Rowling and Oprah Winfrey. If Pangilinan had the delicadeza to apologize and resign because of a plagiarized graduation speech, I believe Justice Del Castillo’s resignation is more than warranted as his actions could set a dangerous precedent in our legal and judicial system.
Now, any student who is caught plagiarizing can simply use the reason that the staff of Justice Del Castillo used, which was that they accidentally deleted the footnotes that would’ve properly cited their sources.
Again at the Ateneo and perhaps in all institutions of learning, intellectual honesty is sacred and by allowing Justice Del Castillo to get away with plagiarism unpunished, we are showing the Filipino youth that it is okay to cheat so as long as you don’t get caught or you have a good excuse that will allow you to get away with it.
This plagiarism issue also leaves another black mark on our nation’s reputation in the international community and this will have serious repercussions for all of us. The three main sources that Justice Del Castillo failed to cite were all taken from international journals and books of law (Yale Journal of International Law, Enforcing Erga Omnes Obligations in International Law published by the Cambridge University Press and Case Western Journal of International Law). In fact when the decision of the Supreme Court to absolve Justice Del Castillo came out, Bruce Ackerman, a Sterling Professor of Law & Political Science at Yale University, was reported to have e-mailed: “I can only hope that good sense prevails & leads to some sober second-thought from the Court majority. Otherwise, the continuing controversy will do serious damage to the Philippine’s standing in the world.”
After this issue, I would not be surprised if many top notch universities all over the world will now have second thoughts about trusting the integrity of research papers that come from our country. Our country may have the best and the brightest minds but if our values and principles become suspect, many of these highly reputable academic institutions will think twice in accepting us into their schools.
Finally, like many Filipinos, I am disappointed with the SC’s decisions not only to clear Justice Del Castillo from any wrongdoing but also and more so to even threaten the UP College of Law with contempt for bringing up this issue to the general public.
Is doing and fighting for what is right now punishable by law? Does the SC value one of its associate justices more than upholding the rule of law? Is the SC now curtailing our right to free speech? I am not a lawyer nor am I someone who is well versed about the law but in this case it is pretty clear that a man who committed a transgression will be left unpunished. Where is justice there?
On another note, a very good friend of mine, Sharwin Tee, is currently vying to become the first star chef of the Lifestyle Network. Please help him win by sending a blank e-mail with the subject VOTE SHARWIN and send to firstname.lastname@example.org . You can vote as many times as you want! Thank you in advance for your help!
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