The Supreme Court en banc has spoken – one of its own, recently-appointed Justice Mariano del Castillo, did not commit plagiarism, even when he failed to indicate the sources of some of the passages to be found in his decision. (The subject matter of the case was the 70 women used by the Japanese army to provide “comfort” services to soldiers during World War 2)
The culprit? An accidental deletion made by his researcher, who had to grapple with 119 source citations and so supposedly didn’t notice when a couple of them were deleted on their way to finalization.The researcher is unidentified, but boy, someone left plenty of clues, what with her being described as third in her class in law school, fourth in the bar exams, editor in chief of her school’s Law Journal, and possessor of “a master’s degree in international law and human rights from a prestigious university in the United States.”
And, knowing that Justice del Castillo is from the Ateneo law school and taught there, with his wife being former dean of the same school, it’s not too much of a stretch to conclude that this hapless researcher, who would have been regarded as a goddess in her university prior to this debacle and is now described by the highest court as merely “competent,” is also an alumna of Ateneo.(With this much detail, it was a wonder why they even bothered protecting her name.)
But as usual, I digress. My mind’s probably still reeling from the stance taken by the court, since it opens up so many avenues for exploration.Does it mean, henceforth, that lawyers can also plead “accidental deletion” when some crucial fact fails to make its way into their pleadings?(My competent intern at the firm didn’t notice it! She has a master’s degree from Harvard!)Can a law student save himself from expulsion even though his thesis doesn’t cite the proper authorities, and it seems like he’s unusually erudite?(My competent mother failed to print the right draft!She’s a partner in a major lawfirm!)
And what next?There remains the matter of the three authors in international law.Not only were they forgotten in the citations, but it is reported that were unhappy with the way their words were used to defend exactly the opposite of their thesis. Will this reported incongruity still be addressed by the court?Were they “misquoted,” which for me is even more egregious than plagiarism, or were they merely taken out of context?Or is this alleged misquoting already adequately explained by the court’s finding that this only concerned “clarity of writing”?What of the authors’ reported claims that their works should not be used to support the ideas enunciated by Justice del Castillo?
There remains also the matter of the only university (my alma mater) that demanded the resignation of Justice del Castillo, while other universities stood by the sidelines or defended the Justice.(I do recall another institution from Mindanao calling for resignation, but my memory always fails.)The latest word on the street (or rather, in the halls of prestigious lawfirms) was that the signatories to the petition asking for the Justice’s resignation are now the subject of contempt proceedings.Will the Supreme Court still exact penance from these signatories? Especially now that there is a collective finding that no plagiarism was committed?
The most intriguing, of course, is the dissent yet to be filed by newly appointed Justice Meilou Sereno, my former professor and co-alumna from the University of the Philippines and the University of Michigan.(Yes, it’s good to establish as many ties as possible between ourselves – proves we’re really tight!).What will Justice Sereno say in her dissent?How far or how close will she be to the main opinion?Exactly on what grounds will she dissent?
I will stop here and not speculate on the answers because I suddenly have this horrible fear that technically, this case (and specially, her dissent) is still sub judice, and I may be next in line towards contempt-hood.But the reported resolution of the court does raise many questions, and it will be interesting to observe, from very safely far far away, exactly what will happen next.