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Re: Letter of the UP Law Faculty Entitled Restoring Integrity: A Statement by

the Faculty of the UP College of Law on the Allegations of Plagiarism and


Misrepresentation in the Supreme Court
Rule 10.2 | March 8, 2011 & June 7, 2011 | Villarama, J; De Castro, J
Nature of Case: Administrative Matter in the SC
Petitioner: Supreme Court
Respondent: UP Law Faculty
SUMMARY: Shortly after the promulgation of the Supreme Court decision in
Vinuya v. Executive Secretary, the counsel for the petitioners therein filed, 1) a
Motion for Reconsideration reiterating the fundamental responsibility of
states in protecting its citizens human rights specifically pertaining to jus
cogens norms; and, 2) a supplement thereto asserting that the Vinuya decision
was plagiarized from different sources and that the true intents of the
plagiarized sources were twisted by the ponente to suit the arguments laid
down in said decision. Thereafter, an ethics committee tasked to investigate
the veracity of the alleged plagiarism, the authors who were purportedly
plagiarized sent their respective letters to the Supreme Court.Due to this, the
faculty of UP College of Law came up with a statement (Restoring Integrity
Statement), which alleged plagiarism against Justice del Castillo, treating the
same not only as an established fact, but as a truth. Said statement was posted
online and at the Colleges bulletin board and was submitted to the Supreme
Court. Thus, the Supreme Court issued a Show Cause Resolution directing
respondents to show cause why they should not be disciplined as members of
the Bar for violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Castillo (Justice del Castillo), to suit the arguments laid down in said
decision.

Vis-a-vis the Courts formation of an ethics committee tasked to


investigate the veracity of the alleged plagiarism, the authors who were
purportedly plagiarized sent their respective letters to the Supreme
Court, noting the misreading and/or misrepresentation of their articles.
Hence, in their articles, they argue that the crimes of rape, torture and
sexual slavery can be classified as crimes against humanity, thus
attaining the jus cogens status; consequently, it shall be obligatory upon
the State to seek remedies on behalf of its aggrieved citizens. However,
the Vinuya decision cited them to support the contrary stand.

In response to this controversy, the faculty of UP College of Law came


up with a statement entitled Restoring Integrity: A Statement by the
Faculty of the University of the Philippines College of Law on the
Allegations of Plagiarism and Misrepresentation in the Supreme Court
(Restoring Integrity Statement), which statement alleged plagiarism
against Justice del Castillo, treating the same not only as an established
fact, but as a truth. Said statement was posted online and at the
Colleges bulletin board and was submitted to the Supreme Court.

The first paragraph concludes with a reference to the decision in Vinuya


v. Executive Secretary as a reprehensible act of dishonesty and
misrepresentation by the Highest Court of the land. The authors also
not only assumed that Justice Del Castillo committed plagiarism, they
went further by directly accusing the Court of perpetrating
extraordinary injustice by dismissing the petition of the comfort
women in Vinuya v. Executive Secretary. They further attempt to
educate this Court on how to go about the review of the case. The insult
to the members of the Court was aggravated by imputations of
deliberately delaying the resolution of the said case, its dismissal on
the basis of polluted sources, the Courts alleged indifference to the
cause of petitioners, as well as the supposed alarming lack of concern of
the members of the Court for even the most basic values of decency
and respect.

The manner in presenting the arguments and the language used therein,
the Court believed, were inappropriate considering its signatories are
lawyers. Thus, the Supreme Court issued a Show Cause Resolution
directing respondents to show cause why they should not be
disciplined as members of the Bar for violations of the Code of
Professional Responsibility. Conversely, compliance to such resolution
was unsatisfactory, except for one respondent.

DOCTRINE: The right to criticize the courts and judicial officers must be
balanced against the equally primordial concern that the independence of the
Judiciary be protected from due influence or interference. In cases where the
critics are not only citizens but members of the Bar, jurisprudence has
repeatedly affirmed the authority of this Court to discipline lawyers whose
statements regarding the courts and fellow lawyers, whether judicial or
extrajudicial, have exceeded the limits of fair comment and common decency.
FACTS:
Shortly after the promulgation of the Supreme Court decision in
Vinuya v. Executive Secretary (the Vinuya decision), the case involving
the Filipino comfort women during the Japanese occupation, the counsel
for the petitioners therein filed, first, a Motion for Reconsideration
reiterating the fundamental responsibility of states in protecting its
citizens human rights specifically pertaining to jus cogens norms and,
second, a supplement thereto asserting that the Vinuya decision was
plagiarized from different sources and that the true intents of the
plagiarized sources were twisted by the ponente, Justice Mariano del

ISSUE/S & RATIO:


1. WON the Show Cause Resolution denies respondents their freedom of
expression NO
A reading of the Show Cause Resolution will plainly show that it was neither the
fact that respondents had criticized a decision of the Court nor that they had
charged one of its members of plagiarism that motivated the said Resolution. It
was the manner of the criticism and the contumacious language by which
respondents, who are not parties nor counsels in the Vinuya case, have
expressed their opinion in favor of the petitioners in the said pending case for
the proper disposition and consideration of the Court that gave rise to said
Resolution. The Show Cause Resolution painstakingly enumerated the
statements that the Court considered excessive and uncalled for under the
circumstances surrounding the issuance, publication, and later submission to this
Court of the UP Law facultys Restoring Integrity Statement.

conduct and speech, coupled with undue intervention in favor of a party in a


pending case, without observing proper procedure, even if purportedly done in
their capacity as teachers.

Respondents cannot successfully invoke academic freedom in this case. The


constitutional right to freedom of expression of members of the Bar may be
circumscribed by their ethical duties as lawyers to give due respect to the
courts and to uphold the publics faith in the legal profession and the justice
system. The Court believes that the reason that freedom of expression may be so
delimited in the case of lawyers applies with greater force to the academic
freedom of law professors. The Court reiterates that lawyers when they teach law
are considered engaged in the practice of law. Unlike professors in other
disciplines and more than lawyers who do not teach law, respondents are bound
by their oath to uphold the ethical standards of the legal profession. Thus, their
actions as law professors must be measured against the same canons of
The right to criticize, which is guaranteed by the freedom of speech and of professional responsibility applicable to acts of members of the Bar as the fact
expression in the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, must be exercised of their being law professors is inextricably entwined with the fact that they
responsibly, for every right carries with it a corresponding obligation. Freedom are lawyers.
is not freedom from responsibility, but freedom with responsibility. Thus,
proscribed are the uses of unnecessary language, which jeopardizes high esteem RULING: PETITION DISMISSED.
in courts, creates or promotes distrust in judicial administration, or tends
necessarily to undermine the confidence of people in the integrity of the members DISSENTING OPINION:
of the Court. In other words, while a lawyer is entitled to present his case with Sereno, J:
vigor and courage, such enthusiasm does not justify the use of offensive and
Ordering the 37 respondent members of the UP Law Faculty to show
abusive language. Language abounds with countless possibilities for one to be
cause in this indirect contempt case is like ordering the little boy who
emphatic but respectful, convincing but not derogatory, illuminating but not
exclaimed that the emperor has no clothes to explain why he should
offensive.
not be crucified for his public observation.
The subject UP Law Faculty members have been prematurely adjudged
A long line of cases shows that the Court has held that the right to criticize the
guilty and asked to explain why such prejudgment should be reversed
courts and judicial officers must be balanced against the equally primordial
simply for expressing what they believed was the truth. There may
concern that the independence of the Judiciary be protected from due
have been exaggeration in the UP Law Faculty's process of expression,
influence or interference. In cases where the critics are not only citizens but
but this tempest is nothing that the Supreme Court has not similarly
members of the Bar, jurisprudence has repeatedly affirmed the authority of
weathered in the past and faced with equanimity.
this Court to discipline lawyers whose statements regarding the courts and
With all due respect to my colleagues, it is not the place of the Court
fellow lawyers, whether judicial or extrajudicial, have exceeded the limits of fair
to seek revenge against those who, in their wish to see reform in the
comment and common decency.
judiciary, have the courage to say what is wrong with it.
Indirect contempt is committed in any of the acts enumerated in Section
2. WON the Show Cause Resolution violates respondents academic
3, Rule 71 of the Rules of Court. The majority Resolution, which is the
freedom as law professors - NO
written charge required by said rule, fails to cite which particular mode
of committing indirect contempt appears to have been violated. It is
There is nothing in the Show Cause Resolution that dictates upon respondents
axiomatic to due process that the accused be informed specifically of the
the subject matter they can teach and the manner of their instruction.
charge against them. A proceeding for indirect contempt is criminal in
Moreover, it is not inconsistent with the principle of academic freedom for this
nature; thus, adherence to due process is more stringently required of
Court to subject lawyers who teach law to disciplinary action for contumacious
this Court.

One can infer from a reading of the majority Resolution which portions
of the text the UP Law Faculty Statement draw the charge of direct
contempt, i.e. (a) the accusation that an extraordinary act of injustice has
been committed against the brave Filipinas who suffered abuse during a
time of war; (b) the casting of the decision as a reprehensible act of
dishonesty and misrepresentation by the Highest Court of the land; (c)
the further attempt to educate the Court on how to go about the review
of the case; (d) imputations of deliberately delaying the resolution of the
Vinuya case; (e) the dismissal of the petition on the basis of polluted
sources; (f) alleged indifference to the cause of petitioners; (g) the
supposed alarming lack of concern of the members of the Court for even
the most basic values of decency and respect, but it must still identify
the specific paragraph of Section 3, Rule 71 of which the UP Law
Faculty appears guilty.
This Court, as complaining party, must state plainly how its ability to
view the motion for reconsideration of the Vinuya decision can be
affected in any way by the UP Law Faculty's statement. It must also
state plainly how its ability to enforce its future orders would be eroded
by the release of the UP Law Faculty Statement.
The second paragraph of the text clearly indicate the Facultys
passionate desire to see the torch of justice carried with honor and
dignity by the highest court of the land, its steps unfaltering from moral
or professional weakness.
The timing of the show cause order; the implication in the related
Decision that the complainants in the plagiarism charge against Justice
del Castillo are hypocrites; the needling over a small matter such as
submission of a dummy vis--vis the original signed copies; and the
apparent effect that the submission of the Statement had on the Court
all of these betray a Court that is bent on seeing itself redeemed not
by hard and honest work, with the undertaking of proper remedial
actions for when a member is in breach of ethics, but by showing who,
in the land of lawyers, has power.

Carpio, J:
I find the Compliance of the 37 legal scholars satisfactory and therefore
see no need to admonish or warn them for supposed use of
disrespectful language in their statement commenting on a public
issue involving the official conduct of a member of this Court. The
majoritys action impermissibly expands the Courts administrative
powers and, more importantly, abridges constitutionally protected
speech on public conduct guaranteed to all, including members of the
bar.

It appears that the evil consequences the UP law faculty statement will
supposedly spawn are (1) the slurring of this Courts dignity and (2) the
impairment of its judicial independence vis--vis the resolution of the
plagiarism complaint in Vinuya. Both are absent here. On the matter of
institutional degradation, the 12-paragraph, 1,553-word statement of
the UP law faculty, taken as a whole, does not exhibit that "irrational
obsession to demean, ridicule, degrade and even destroy the courts and
their members" typical of unprotected judicial criticism.
On the contrary, the statement, taken as a whole, seeks to
uphold the bedrock democratic value of keeping judicial processes free
of any taint of dishonesty or misrepresentation. Thus, the UP law
faculty statement is far removed from speech the Court has rightly
sanctioned for proffering no useful social value, solely crafted to vilify its
members and threaten its very existence.

The conclusion that the UP law faculty statement disrespects the Court
and its members is valid only if the statement is taken apart, its
dismembered parts separately scrutinized to isolate and highlight
perceived offensive phrases and words. This approach defies common
sense and departs from this Courts established practice in scrutinizing
speech critical of the judiciary. People v. Godoy instructs that speech
critical of judges must be "read with contextual care," making sure that
disparaging statements are not "taken out of context." Using this
approach, and applying the clear and present danger test, the Court
in Godoy cleared a columnist and a publisher of liability despite the
presence in the assailed news article of derogatory yet isolated
statements about a judge. We can do no less to the statement of the
members of the UP law faculty, who, after all, were impelled by nothing
but their sense of professional obligation to "speak out on a matter of
public concern and one that is of vital interest to them."

The academic bar, which the UP law faculty represents, is the


judiciarys partner in a perpetual intellectual conversation to promote
the rule of law and build democratic institutions. It serves the interest
of sustaining this vital relationship for the Court to constructively
respond to the academics criticism. Instead of heeding the UP law
facultys call for the Court to "ensur[e] that not only the content, but also
the processes of preparing and writing its own decisions, are credible
and beyond question," the majority dismisses their suggestion as
useless calumny and brands their constitutionally protected speech as
"unbecoming of lawyers and law professors." The Constitution, logic,
common sense and a humble awareness of this Courts role in the
larger project of dispensing justice in a democracy revolt against such
response.